- Online shopping is a huge part of American life, with a record $1.3 trillion spent in 2022.
- With the convenience of online shopping come some risks, including an increase in online scams.
- These tips, including watching out for fake product reviews and using a credit card for purchases, can help ensure a safe online shopping experience.
Finally, the greatest threats of the pandemic have waned, and we are out and about: traveling, visiting family and friends, getting back to the movies, and returning to the relatively normal hum of our lives.
There is one activity that increased during the pandemic: online shopping. Consumers embrace of e-commerce has been ongoing and continues to grow, with online spending in 2022 skyrocketing to a record $1.3 trillion.1 In just the second quarter of 2023, we spent nearly $253 million online.2
Older adults are increasing contributors to this online shopping market. In 2020, consumers 50 and older accounted for 29% of digital buyers in the U.S. online marketplace.3 It’s no surprise that there’s a significant upswing in older adults’ online shopping due to the great convenience of shopping from home and the online savings.
Online shopping: Balancing convenience with safety
While online shopping offers great benefits, it’s important for all of us to be aware of the latest safety tips to ensure that any critical lifesavings are not lost during an online transaction or spent on sham or counterfeit products. While online shopping activity increases, so do the opportunities for scam artists and fraudsters to build new tactics to scam significant dollars from unsuspecting online users. All of us need to have the tools to ensure we can feel confident when engaging in online retail.
In particular, older adults will benefit from clear information on how to stay safe online during the shopping experience:
- What do you need to be aware of before making an online purchase?
- How do you stay secure when you’re ready to buy?
- After you shop and complete your purchase, what do you need to know to report a scam, fraud, or possible purchase of a counterfeit product?
Safe online shopping before you make your purchase
When you’re browsing online for a particular product or service:
- Always use a trusted online shopping “store” for your purchases and beware of phony online shopping sites that often reside on social media sites that may offer enticing prices.
Check out any unfamiliar stores with the with the Better Business Bureau. Their site can help you weed out phony online shopping sites. When shopping, consider using trusted online stores like Amazon, which offer protections for consumers shopping on their site and the A-to-z Guarantee for items purchased on their site that can help resolve issues with third-party vendors.
- Protect your privacy and security.
Brush-up on the latest privacy and security settings on all of your devices: Engage privacy settings, enable “cookie” choices, and clear your “browser history” on a regular basis to avoid unwanted marketing from companies.
- Be aware of fake reviews of products you’re considering for purchase.
Customer reviews are an important element of the online shopping process and assist many shoppers in their purchases. Amazon reports that “last year 125 million customers contributed nearly 1.5 billion reviews and ratings to our stores providing future Amazon shoppers with transparent insights into the products they were considering.”
Unfortunately, fake reviews of online products are a problem that plague online stores, and some are working diligently to weed them out. With the goal of ensuring every review in Amazon’s stores is trustworthy and reflects customers’ actual experiences, Amazon proactively blocked over 200 million suspected fake reviews from its stores in 2022.
- Shop smart to avoid counterfeit items.
The online marketplace has included counterfeit items that shopkeepers are working hard to eliminate. Online retailers have expanded anti-counterfeit strategies to eliminate fake goods from their site using new tools. Etsy stepped up efforts to eliminate fake goods from its site by releasing a transparency report and adding a portal to report alleged copyright violations. And eBay recently purchased 3PM Shield, a provider of AI marketplace tools, which aims to “enhance its ability to address suspicious or harmful seller behavior, and potentially problematic items.”
- Watch out for online scams, such as “phishing,” that target older adults.
Online scam artists are getting more competent and creative at committing acts of fraud online, with older adults often finding themselves unfortunate victims of these scams.
One popular scam that targets older adults is the “phishing scam.” Scammers use email or text messages that look like they’re from a company you know or trust, such as your bank, credit card company, or an online store. Phishing emails request your personal information, such as a log-in password or Social Security number to verify your account or may ask that you update your credit card payment. Then they use that information to steal your personal and financial information.
To avoid a phishing scam, carefully check the email address to see if it is actually from the company you know and trust (with a scam, usually the email address is off by a letter or two). A dose of healthy skepticism is in order if you receive any unsolicited emails asking for your personal and/or financial information.
- Bargain hunters, beware: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Be cautious of any unsolicited email come-ons and special deals that ask you to “click” on an unfamiliar site. They can take you to an illegitimate seller… or a scam!
Safe online shopping before when you’re ready to buy
Ready to make your purchase? Some safeguards:
- Make sure you are on a secure site when entering financial information during your purchase transactions.
When it’s time to enter financial or other sensitive information, always make sure you’re on a secure site. Look for the address bar at the top of the screen to change from “http” to “https” when asked to input financial information, such as a credit card number. This indicates it will be transmitted securely.
- Use a credit card for your purchases.
If a purchase is made with your credit card, you can always dispute a charge. Federal law limits liability to $50 if there’s an unauthorized charge to your account, and if you report it to your credit card company as soon as you discover it, they will often remove the charge entirely.
Protecting yourself after online shopping
Now that you’ve made a purchase:
- Watch out for “impersonation scams” that could attempt to gather your personal identification or financial information by posing as one of your trusted online retailers. During or following shopping transactions, you could receive notice of problems with a delivery that requires you to call a new number, or to enter personal identifying information. Be wary of these unsolicited contacts, and check the Better Business Bureau for more information on these scams.
- Report any scams or fraud that you experience online.
The Federal Trade Commission advises that “If you have a problem when you shop online, try to work it out directly with the seller or site owner. If that doesn’t work, you can report it to
- The FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
- Your state attorney general
- Your state’s consumer protection agency”
Originally Published on : https://www.ncoa.org/article/10-tips-for-safe-and-secure-online-shopping
1. Digital Commerce 360. US ecommerce in 2022 tops $1 trillion for first time. Feb. 17, 2023. Found on the internet at https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/us-ecommerce-sales
2. U.S. Census Bureau. Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Report. Aug. 17, 2023. Found on the internet at https://www.census.gov/retail/ecommerce.html
3. Statista. Distribution of digital buyers in the United States as of February 2020, by age group. Aug. 23, 2021. Found on the internet at https://www.statista.com/statistics/469184/us-digital-buyer-share-age-group/