In these tough economic times, it is even more important to be vigilant about possible consumer fraud perpetrated on the Internet.

Generally speaking, when buying or bidding on goods online, you should be careful about divulging your personal financial information. You should also be careful in selecting the vendors with whom you deal.  

To avoid being defrauded by online vendors, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Never give your credit card or Social Security number to someone who solicits you  online or over the phone.
  • Restrict your purchases to vendors you know you can trust or nationally-known sellers.
  • Always make sure a website is secure before providing any financial information. Secured websites can be identified by the yellow locked padlock or key icon appearing at the bottom of your browser’s window or at web addresses preceded by the letters “https.”
  • Do not give out personal financial information to vendors unless you are absolutely certain your contact is legitimate.
  • Use antivirus software, a firewall and anti-spyware to keep your computer safe and secure and update these programs regularly to protect against the latest threats.
  • Use a secure online payment service such as PayPal. You can also make purchases by credit card, which, unlike a debit card, offers some protection in case a dispute arises.
  • Print a record of what you pay for and always cross-check your online purchases with your bank or credit card statement to make sure no unauthorized charges appear.
  • Do not keep your personal financial information, including account passwords, on your computer. Use a USB flash drive instead.
  • Turn your computer off when you are not using it. If your computer is left on, scammers can install software and control it remotely to commit cyber crime.
  • If you have been defrauded by a company online, contact your local police precinct to file a complaint.

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Charles J. Hynes