The internet makes holiday shopping so easy—no fighting for parking spaces at jam-packed malls, no waiting in endless lines to get to the register.
But even if you consider yourself a pro, shopping online isn’t without risks. These tips can help you protect yourself and your finances as you hunt for that perfect gift:
1. Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card payments can be withheld if there’s a dispute with a store, and if the card is stolen, you won’t have to pay more than $50 of fraudulent charges. But with a debit card, you can’t withhold payments—the store is paid directly from your bank account. And if your card is stolen, you could be liable for up to $500, depending on when you report it.
2. Find out if the public WiFi hotspot you’re using at a coffee shop or bookstore is secure. If it’s not, your payment information could be compromised over the network.
3. It’s risky not to read the terms of service agreement before you buy online. You could inadvertently sign up for subscriptions or get hit with additional fees or restrictions. Terms of service are often in small print or presented right when you are anxious to purchase.
4. Be careful if you’re buying event tickets online as gifts. Some venues may practice restricted ticketing, requiring the same credit card used in the online purchase to be shown to get into the event.
5. Use caution buying digital assets like books and music—they can’t be given away as gifts if they’ve been downloaded to your account. You should either purchase a gift card for the book or music site, or check with the company. Some services have ways to “gift an item” but it varies depending on the provider.
For more advice on safe online shopping and being a savvy consumer this holiday season and all year long, check out the Consumer Action Handbook–the free government guide to protecting your money.
Register with the National “Do Not Call” Registry
- Online at DoNotCall.gov.
- By telephone at 1-888-382-1222 or TTY: 1-866-290-4236.
Verify if and when your phone number was registered.
If you have already signed up for the “Do Not Call” Registry and would now like to have your name and phone number removed from the list, you can call 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number you want deleted. They will remove your number from the Registry within 24 hours.
Registered and Still Getting Calls
Telemarketers should stop calling you after your phone number has been on the “Do Not Call” Registry for 31 days. If you receive a telemarketing call after 31 days, file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
You may also file a complaint if you receive a call that used a recorded message instead of a live person, even if your phone number is not on the Registry.
Did you know you can search for food, product, and vehicle recalls on our site? Try it now.
Image description: The IRS is warning of a phone scam targeting tax payers.
Scammers are calling tax payers and telling them they owe the IRS money and need to pay it immediately through a pre-loaded credit card or wire transfer.
If you don’t pay, the scammers claim you could be arrested, deported or have your driver’s or business license suspended.
Remember, the IRS will never initiate contact with you over the phone, email or social media to request personal information.
Visit IRS.gov to learn more about the scam and how to report it.
There are a number of scams currently circulating that target members of the military and veterans, such as fake military charities, identity theft targeting active service members, and veteran pension scams.
In general, all of these scams try to take advantage of military members by offering to provide a service and then taking your money, while you get nothing in return.
You can learn more about specific scams by visiting the Scams Targeting Service Members or Veterans section of StopFraud.gov.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, there are a few ways to file a complaint:
StopFraud.gov offers information about how to report financial fraud.