Alert
Close

Last chance – give now. Before 2014 ends, help struggling seniors. Donate

Scam Alert

9 Ways to Shop Safely Online

How to stay clear of online holiday shopping hoaxes

  • Avoid any website that doesn't provide a physical address, which you can verify by looking up the company on the Internet, or a phone number. Scam sites often allow only for e-mail correspondence, which makes for better hiding in cyberspace. If a phone number is listed, call it to ensure it's not a fax machine or voicemail with no live operator — two more red flags for a potential scam.

  • Watch for "scammer grammar." Although legitimate retailers may not moonlight for Webster's dictionary, their websites tend to be absent of the frequent misspellings and grammatical errors of the websites, ads and e-mail of scammers, who are often foreigners with poor command of English or fly-by-nights with little time to spell-check while trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

  • Reject any requests for wire transfer payment. It's the quickest way to lose money, especially if it's sent overseas. Legit online retailers accept credit cards, which offer you more protection than debit transactions if you need to dispute payment.

  • Don't believe sob stories. Beware of "act now" offers that tell you the seller is a soldier needing cash for possessions before deploying to a war zone or a recent divorcée wanting to unload her former husband's belongings. These tactics are often bait to empty your wallet; the items typically don't exist.

  • Research the prices. Similar items typically fall into a general price range. If one being offered to you falls way below that range, you need to ask yourself why. The usual answer: Scammers use ridiculously low prices to lure consumers into a bogus bargain.

  • Be on guard at online auctions. Lost the winning bid on eBay or another auction website? Don't be taken in by follow-up e-mails offering the same deal. Scammers often cruise online auction sites to pounce on losing bidders and direct them away from those secure buying environments.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Also of interest: Many happy returns. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.