Tips to avoid fraud when shopping online

As the Fraud Prevention Month campaign continues, members of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch want to ensure online shopping and auction experiences do not result in emptied shopping carts and bank accounts.

People use the Internet every day for all types of activities, including buying and selling goods and services out of convenience – sometimes at lower than retail costs. No matter how people choose to shop online, they could be exposing their personal information to thieves, which can result in identity theft, significant financial losses or severe credit card obligations.

For example, scammers might sell a product – often at a very cheap price – just so they can steal payment card or personal information.

In 2011, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – located in North Bay – received 2,479 complaints of online shopping fraud in Canada. Of those, 1,682 were identified as victims who reported a loss of more than $3.6-million, including perpetrators using e-mail, the Internet and text messaging to access victims.

Some of the more common ways that people expose themselves to fraud while shopping online include:

– creating an online profile that includes credit card or banking information; and,

– saving passwords on a computer in a file that has not been encrypted, or protected by a key or password.

To guard against becoming a victim, police advise people to only use credit cards online on trusted sites and ensure that the online transaction is encrypted. Look for websites with addresses starting with https or a padlock image on the page.

That will indicate that the information entered on those pages and the transmission of the information is secure. Check to see if a credit card issuer has a fraud protection policy and how to be protected. Also, check statements every month and report any errors or unauthorized transactions.

Anyone who suspect they have been a victim of fraud while shopping online should contact local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod, of the OPP Investigations and Organized Crime,  said, “Knowledge is power. Consumers can take some basic steps to better protect themselves from becoming a victim, such as never giving out personal information over the phone or over the internet. Deal with companies or individuals that you know by reputation or experience.”

Acting Inspector Scott James, of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch added, “If you are not familiar with the company or comfortable with online commerce or auctions, do some research. Always remember, if an offer sounds suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.”