Tis' the season for holiday shopping. And it’s also when Garden State shoppers are encountering a lot of schemes and scams, especially online.

The good news, according to state Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul Rodriguez, is that consumers can protect themselves.

If you’re shopping online, make sure the sites you’re going to are legitimate and secure.

“At the very top of the browser where you have the address line, make sure that it starts with 'https.'

Most browsers will have a padlock logo next to the web address. He explained that indicates you have at least some minimal level of encryption when you’re entering credit card information.

Web security

It's also important to make sure the website you’re visiting is actually the one you think you’re visiting.

“It’s safer if you put in the address yourself as opposed to click from a link from an email or from social media," he said.

One of the most widespread holiday scams is when you get a surprise email advising you of a big sale with wonderful prices on in-demand items and the email contains a link.

“You click on it, it looks like it’s taking you to the legit site, but it’s actually a much longer string or a misspelled string. It takes you somewhere else, which is going to collect information from you," he said.

He also stressed it’s important to not over-share. In other words, be careful about the information you’re putting online.

“For most transactions there’s sensitive information that you should think twice about sharing, things like your Social Security number, your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name or bank account number.”

He pointed out some sites will allow you to log in and make purchase as a guest, and “those transactions may allow you to share even less information that normal, so that is one way to safeguard your information.”

He strongly recommended checking your credit card statement carefully, whether you shop online or at a retail store.

“I once had a $10,000 charge on my credit card, which I was very sure was not mine. It did not escape notice.”

However, he pointed out in most fraudulent instances the transactions are much smaller, so a careful inspection is important.

He also recommended using strong passwords with a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols whenever you set up an account on a site.

Rodriguez said if consumers have questions or concerns or want to check out business they can contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs directly at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov.


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