AG: Shop safely on the Internet


LITTLE ROCK – American consumers will spend billions of dollars shopping online this holiday season.

Online gift-buying may be faster and more convenient than traditional holiday shopping, though Internet transactions are not without risk. To ensure consumers stay safe while shopping online, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert.

“Online shopping for gifts has become so popular that thousands of Arkansans will browse for buys on the Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday,” McDaniel said. “As more and more consumers conduct business online, we want them to have the resources they need to protect themselves and their personal information.”

McDaniel encouraged consumers to make their online purchases on websites operated by businesses they know and trust. Only provide sensitive financial information where appropriate, such as on an order form. Never reveal passwords to anyone online, whether it be on an e-commerce site or to an Internet service provider.

Downloading files or clicking on links sent by unfamiliar entities may expose systems to malicious software that would harm a computer.

McDaniel offered this additional advice for online shoppers:

• Always conduct business transactions on a secure website. To determine whether information is secure during transmission, the browser’s status bar should have a “lock” icon and the phrase “https” in the website’s URL address.

• Make sure to utilize a secure browser with software that encrypts, or scrambles, any purchase information sent over the Internet. The latest browser version available from the manufacturer has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities.

• Pay for items by credit card. Federal law allows consumers to dispute charges if necessary, and many credit-card issuers have a “zero liability” policies so that cardholders pay nothing if a card is stolen and used.

• Read a website’s privacy policy prior to providing any personal information to determine how that data will be used and if it will be shared with other entities. Most privacy disclosures can be found at the bottom of a site’s homepage.

• Never disclose personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, telephone numbers or email addresses unless you know who’s collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.

• Review the site’s refund and exchange policy to see whether or not additional shipping or restocking fees will be assessed if an item needs to be returned.

• Always review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if there are any discrepancies. Also, keep records of online transactions and check for e-mails from merchants with whom you’re doing business.

For more information about shopping online safely or other consumer-related issues visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division on the Internet, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341.