Trust Your Intuition to Shop Online (and Offline) Safely

People against wall with shopping bags

In one way, shopping online is very similar to shopping at kiosks, in shops and in malls. Personal and financial safety is always of great importance, but it’s easy to forget about safety when we’re distracted or in a rush. Either way, online or offline, searching for the best item at the best price can be very distracting, and distraction can be a real problem.

Think about the actions of a pickpocket for a moment. Professional pickpockets are looking for victims who are distracted, making it much easier to lift wallets, phones, purses, and bags from preoccupied shoppers. Victims in hectic airports and on busy sidewalks are often distracted by the crowd, and they might be talking or texting on their phones at the same time, too.

How many times have you passed through an airport and consciously thought about a pickpocket or a thief? And whenever you’re making your way through a downtown crowd or attending a special event, are you thinking about your personal and financial protection?

If you’re not inclined to think about your safety while in a crowd, you’re probably not thinking too much about your safety online either. Sadly, unscrupulous online vendors are well aware of that fact. They may set up a website, or a Craigslist or eBay listing, based upon the fact that most shoppers are too busy and too distracted to take a moment to consider their personal shopping safety.

Trusting your intuition is a very useful safety measure … assuming you pay attention to it.

If you just don’t feel right about a particular brick-and-mortar store, you probably avoid it, right? That’s natural. But do you avoid a website or auction listing just because something doesn’t look or feel right about it? If so, good for you. You are ahead of many folks in this area.

Most people who have used online dating sites become well-acquainted with profiles that don’t seem to make sense. It’s not always easy to identify the problem, but something just seems off, so they click away and check out other profiles as they shop for a possible date. Maybe it’s just a feeling, but they learn to trust it.

Online dating can teach you a lot about using your intuition when you shop online. Even if you haven’t explored online dating yourself, no doubt you’ve heard stories about fakers and scammers who compromised the personal and financial safety of someone they met online. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon experience.
That’s why internet shopping safety is primarily a matter of considering the real person or company behind every website and each listing you visit. Trust your intuition to guide you. To do this, you have to set aside distractions and you can’t be in a rush.

Look for:

  • Product descriptions that are too short, clipped and inadequate. If a normal person needs more information to make an intelligent purchase, move on to another site to make your purchase. Something may not be right.
  • Spelling and grammar errors that stick out and detract from your shopping experience. Reputable companies hire experienced copywriters and editors to eliminate basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Scammers, many of whom are not located in the United States, skip the expense and try to do it themselves.
  • A physical address in the United States. If you can’t find a physical address at the bottom of a website, or on the About or Contact pages, there’s a problem. The CAN-SPAM Act requires commercial emails to include the physical address of the sender in the email and on the website to which any commercial email is linked. But, CAN-SPAM does not require websites to list a physical address, and it does not impose a fine as it does on commercial emails without physical addresses.
    In other words, the law does not protect you by requiring a physical address on every website, but your own intuition can protect you by raising a red flag whenever you can’t locate a physical address. Reputable sellers are eager to provide the information buyers need to identify and verify them. Go elsewhere to shop if you don’t find a physical address you can verify online by making sure it matches the business you found on the web.
  • A secure payment portal. Look carefully at the website address in the address bar at the top of your browser screen. It should begin with https:// because the “s” indicates a level of security you need whenever you’re going to enter credit card or other personal information.
    However, you may visit a site with an address beginning with HTTP:// (without an “s”) and it can also be safe because it will direct to a secure site for a credit card or checking account information when you check out. Usually, you’ll need to begin a purchase transaction before you know how a merchant is set up to collect your data. So, it’s not a bad idea to select one item and simply begin the checkout process, stopping short of clicking, “confirm”. That way, you’ll know what to expect with your real purchase.

Your Turn: Do you trust your own intuition when you’re shopping online? Do you make sure to pay attention and take the time to protect your personal and financial safety wherever you shop? Share your experiences – good or bad – here.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/online-dating-scams opens in a new window

https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177 opens in a new window

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-complianAce-guide-business opens in a new window

Financial Self Defense: How To Spot and Avoid Fake Tickets

magnifying glass

After months of dreaming, wishing and praying; after a five-hour car ride without air conditioning and after waiting in line for what feels like a lifetime, you’ve finally gotten into the concert experience of a lifetime. Beaming, you step forward and hand your ticket to the security guard at the entrance. You begin to stride forward, but he stops you dead in your tracks. He can’t let you into the concert because your ticket won’t scan. I’m afraid to be the one to tell you this, but you’ve been sold a fake ticket.

In a world where almost everything can be accessed online, live performances are a valuable experience. Unfortunately, scam artists across the globe have realized this and are turning that value against people. Users on sites like Craigslist and eBay have been selling fraudulent tickets for performances and sporting events for years. Concert or sporting event tickets can cost hundreds of dollars at face value these days, and much more than that as the date of the event approaches. Scam artists have tapped into that market big-time. All they need to do is ask you to pay online or mail your payment to a private PO box, and they’re almost untraceable.

So, without question, by purchasing tickets online, you’re putting your wallet at tremendous risk. Shelling out hundreds of dollars for a piece of paper anyone can forge is a gamble any way you look at it, but using faulty tickets can pose other dangers as well. For example, if you pay with a personal check, an experienced con artist might attempt to use the information on it to steal your identity. Even if nothing else goes wrong with the sale, if you show up to the event with a faulty ticket, you could be arrested for trying to pass it off as real.

Given the spread of online ticket exchanges, it may seem that there’s no alternative to buying tickets online. The era of the box office windows may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean the safety it provided has gone away. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Try these 6 handy tips.

  1. Do your research
    For starters, find out as much background information as you can. See if you can find out exactly what a real ticket looks like, so you can spot differences in a forged one. For sporting events, most national sanctioning organizations include holograms and other hard-to-fake pictures on their tickets. When in doubt, contact the venue.

  2. Spot the spec
    “Spec” tickets are being sold speculatively. These are not tickets that the seller has in his or her possession. They are tickets the seller expects to have after they come up for sale. If you see tickets for events that haven’t been released by the box office yet, this is likely how they’re being sold. Steer clear, as a “spec” seller is just as likely to take your money and run as they are to give you a ticket.

  3. Make sellers do their homework
    There are ways you can strike preemptively against fake ticket scammers. Ask for a copy of the seller’s invoice, proving that the tickets have been paid for in full. This is no different than asking for a receipt to prove the goods you’re buying aren’t stolen. For season ticket holders selling one event, you can also ask them for the ticket account number, which will always be printed at the top of the ticket.
    Also, ask the seller why they’re selling. Imagine yourself as a teacher and the seller as a child who’s asking for a homework excuse. Be skeptical of reasons why the seller is missing the event. No one schedules a funeral a month in advance.

  4. Deal with reputable websites
    Craigslist should be the last resort for buying tickets to events. Check reputable websites like SeatGeek, StubHub and Ticket Exchange before you dive into Craigslist. Better yet, ask your friends if they know anyone with tickets. It’s always easier to deal with friends or coworkers than with anonymous strangers.

  5. Trust your instincts
    Always be wary of people who are selling tickets at face value or less. Unless prohibited by state law, many people who resell tickets will do so at many times face value. Someone with a last-second conflict will still likely attempt to get at least face value for tickets to a popular event. Think like a scalper. If you saw a ticket for sale below face value, wouldn’t you snap it up, knowing you could multiply your money at the event? If a deal feels too good to be true, you know what to do.

  6. Manage the meet
    See if you can meet your contact in person. Aim to meet in a well-lit, public place. Many grocery stores and other large retailers offer their parking lots as safe spaces for all sorts of transactions and they would be excellent candidates for this one. As far as payment goes, cashier’s check is the safest way to pay a stranger, since it contains little personally identifiable information and doesn’t require the same level of trust as a personal check. With the rise of mobile payment apps like PayPal and Square, it might be wisest to pay through one of these in order to create a digital paper trail should something go wrong with the ticket. Always inspect the ticket carefully for signs of fraud before handing over any money. If the seller doesn’t agree, walk away.
    No matter how high-definition the video gets or how free of ads it is, it’ll never compare to the thrill of being at a live performance. That being said, even a live performance is never worth giving up your account information and funds for the possibility of being arrested at the gates. Go enjoy your concert, but never stop being wary of scam artists in the digital age.

Bonus Tip: Once you have your tickets in hand, you may be want to share your exciting news on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. That’s cool. You’re excited and you should be. But also be careful not to post a picture of your ticket(s) containing all the relevant info that is unique to your purchase (such as seats and ticket serial numbers). Sophisticated scammers can replicate your ticket using that data and leave you facing a lot of questions when you try to attend the event.

SOURCES:

Craigslist Ticket Scams

http://consumer-law.lawyers.com/consumer-fraud/step-right-up-beware-of-ticket-scams-and-risks.html opens in a new window