No matter how much you shop online this year, you may find that your habits pick up speed in the months ahead. Whether you’re ordering last-minute Halloween costumes from Amazon, taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals, or shopping for Christmas gifts, the online shopping season is bound to be busy. But even if this is a normal annual event for you, you could make some risky mistakes. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is alerting Americans to a common mistake made by many people. Read on to find out which type of card you should never use when shopping online.
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Given the many dangers lurking online, the FBI has an entire section of its website devoted to keeping Americans safe online. “Everyday tasks — opening an email attachment, following a link in a text message, making an online purchase — can open you up to online criminals who want to damage your systems or steal from you,” the agency says.
In 2020, the FBI issued an alert warning consumers of an increase in online shopping scams. “A growing number of victims are being directed to fraudulent websites via popular social media platforms and online search engines,” the agency said. These bogus websites usually cause consumers to fall victim to one of the most common online shopping scams: the non-delivery scam.
“In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received,” the FBI explains.
According to a February 2022 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, a 70% increase from the previous year. Following impostor scams, online shopping scams were responsible for the majority of losses. The agency’s report showed that consumers reported a total of around $392 million in losses from online shopping fraud last year, a significant increase from the $246 million in losses reported. for this type of scam in 2020.
And there seems to be an increase in online shopping scams during the fall and winter holidays, according to the FBI. The agency says its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) typically receives a large number of complaints in the first few months of each year, “suggesting a correlation with business scams from the previous holiday season.” At the same time, the FBI is quick to note that online shopping theft can occur at any time of the year.
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Despite their prevalence, online shopping scams are not inevitable, so there’s no need to give up online shopping altogether. Instead, the FBI has a major piece of advice for e-commerce consumers: don’t use your debit card. “Shop online with a credit card for an extra layer of fraud protection,” the agency recommends.
One of the main reasons the FBI advises against using your debit card to make online purchases is that it doesn’t always provide the same protection to victims of online shopping scams. According to Bankrate, credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FBCA), but debit cards are not.
If you don’t receive what you paid for, the FBCA allows you to dispute the charge to your credit card as a billing error, the FTC explains. On the other hand, the agency warns that only “certain debit card issuers may voluntarily offer protections,” as they are not required to do so.
“If you paid by debit card, the consumer protections are different than those for credit cards,” the FTC says. “You may not be able to get a refund for non-delivery.”
When buying something online, the FBI recommends that you “always get tracking numbers” for your items, even if you paid by credit card. This allows you to ensure that your order has been dispatched and allows you to track the delivery process. If you never received what you bought online, the FTC says you should “notify the seller as soon as possible.”
Under the federal rule for ordering merchandise by mail, internet, or phone, a seller must ship your order within the advertised time frame. “If the seller doesn’t promise a time frame, they must ship your order within 30 days of placing the order,” the FTC said. If your order cannot be dispatched within the time promised, the seller must inform you of any delay. They should also give you a new shipping date and give you the option to cancel your order for a full refund.
“If you have a problem shopping online, try to resolve it directly with the seller or site owner,” recommends the FTC. If that doesn’t work, you should contact your credit card company to dispute the charges and report online shopping scams to the FTC.