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Sen. Griffo Weekly Column: ‘If You Shop Online During the Holidays, Be Careful and Alert’

By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District 

Joe Griffo
Sen. Joe Griffo.

Many people shop online during the holiday season. While this option is more convenient for some, there also are risks involved with this activity. 

There are steps you can take to protect yourself when making online purchases. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following tips: 

  • Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page. 
  • Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy. 
  • Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam. 
  • Think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype. 
  • Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft. One popular scam claims to be from a package-delivery company with links to “tracking information” on an order you don’t remember making. Don’t click! 
  • Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve of or to get your money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card. 
  • Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records. 
  • Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus, and antispyware software for network security. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet, and smart phone. 

Unfortunately, online shopping can be a boon for criminals who may steal your package right off your doorstep. Over 260 million packages were stolen from Americans this year, according to SafeWise, a company that researches home safety issues.  

So, what can you do to prevent your package from being stolen? 

Consumer Reports recommends that you monitor your front porch with a security camera or doorbell, give the delivery service special directions indicating where to leave the package, sign up for alerts to monitor the delivery of your package and/or require a signature for packages to be delivered. 

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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