CLEARWATER – Clearwater Police want to warn the public about shopping online this holiday season. The department offers the following tips to avoid fraud while shopping online:
• Use familiar websites – If possible, try to stick with a known reputable company that you or your friends and family have done business with in the past.
• When in doubt, check them out – If an online merchant is unfamiliar, use websites such as www.epinions.com and www.bizrate.com that have customer evaluations and can help you determine if a business is legitimate. If you Google the name of the business, followed by the word “scam,” you’ll often find complaints that will alert you to the likelihood of fraud.
• Choose credit over debit – Most credit cards have protection on them and are considered the safest method for online purchases. Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit cards is $50. If you use a debit card, you could lose up to $500, depending on when the fraud is discovered and reported.
• Avoid public computers – It’s best to use your home computer or that of someone you trust for any online shopping. You have no control over who else may be using a public computer. If you have no other option than to use a public one, make sure to log out of each online retailer’s webpage once you have completed your transaction and any other open session that transmit personal information, even if you are just checking your email.
• Look for the security lock – Check for security credentials on a website. Never purchase anything or reveal personal information online from a website that does not have secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption installed. A website has SSL when the web address for the site starts with https instead of just http. On a secure site, you also will see an icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the page.