Stay alert when engaging with websites, popup ads and apps that sell merchandise.
Every day we connect with stores and merchants through websites, shopping apps, and social media. Most of these are safe and run by real businesses.
But anything that is popular and easy to use can attract criminals and online shopping is no exception.
Online criminals may try to sell you fraudulent goods. Some target online experiences such as gaming sites, to trick users out of money or personal information.
They may offer you products or services at a discount. Some will make you think you’re buying a name-brand or designer item but then they’ll send you fakes, or nothing at all.
So how can you try to protect yourself and those you love?
Safety starts by slowing down.
Whether you’re buying goods or services from a website, a shopping app, or responding to a pop-up ad, first look for signs that the seller is for real.
While there is no one feature to look for, here are some tips that can help you shop safely.
Here are some things to look for when you’re visiting a seller’s website.
Does the site look clean and professional?
Or does it look sloppy? As if someone created it quickly.
Does the text contain obvious spelling mistakes or incorrect word choices?
Is there contact information, such as a phone number? If there is, try verifying that it belongs to the company and is a real number.
Are there product or company reviews on the seller’s site or on the web? An internet search can reveal whether there have been complaints about this company.
Does the seller have good return or exchange policies?
Does the website’s URL address have an ‘s’ at the end of ‘http’? This means the site is encrypted. An encrypted site does not guarantee safety. But you should be careful about buying anything from sites with no encryption.
One social media, enticing ads for clever or attractive products pop-up all the time.
Here are a few things to look for before you get serious about buying something they advertise:
First, try to make sure these ads belong to a real company:
Search for the company online to see if they have their own site or online shop.
Look at the terms and conditions of the sale, especially for ‘free trial’ or ‘limited time’ offers.
If you don’t see any terms and conditions, the offer may not be safe.
Do an internet search of the company name and ‘complaint.’ This can help you determine if the company has a history of scamming other people.
Whenever you’re downloading or using shopping apps, here are a few things to look for:
Look at the app closely before you download and use it.
Check the spelling of the company name. Are you sure it’s the name-brand you recognize?
Is the logo right? Even established app stores may link to apps that are slightly different from apps owned by real merchants.
Don’t assume an app you’ve downloaded from a legitimate app store is safe.
Criminals can sometimes load fraudulent apps to these stores.
No matter how you’re buying online, apply some common sense:
Is the deal too good to be true?
Name brand items for 85% off? That could be a warning sign.
Is someone from the seller’s company contacting you for payment information or special deals? This is often a red flag.
Remember: Taking a few moments to look closely before you click on a link or type in your credit card number can help you spot the threats and stay safe.
Learn how you can avoid even the most sophisticated online shopping scams and advertisements by:
Determining if an offer is really too good to be true.
Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Asset allocation, rebalancing and diversification do not guarantee against risk in broadly declining markets.
Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.
This material is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or investment strategy. Merrill offers a broad range of brokerage, investment advisory (including financial planning) and other services. Additional information is available in our Client Relationship Summary.
This material does not take into account a client’s particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs and is not intended as a recommendation, offer, or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or investment strategy. Merrill offers a broad range of brokerage, investment advisory (including financial planning) and other services. There are important differences between brokerage and investment advisory services, including the type of advice and assistance provided, the fees charged, and the rights and obligations of the parties. It is important to understand the differences, particularly when determining which service or services to select. For more information about these services and their differences, speak with your Merrill financial advisor.
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as “MLPF&S” or “Merrill”) makes available certain investment products sponsored, managed, distributed or provided by companies that are affiliates of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”). MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, Member SIPC and a wholly owned subsidiary of BofA Corp.
Insurance and annuity products are offered through Merrill Lynch Life Agency Inc., a licensed insurance agency and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation.
Trust, fiduciary and investment management services, including assets managed by the Specialty Asset Management team, are provided by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”), and its agents.
Bank of America Private Bank is a division of Bank of America, N.A.
U.S. Trust Company of Delaware is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation.
Banking products are provided by Bank of America, N.A. and affiliated banks, Members FDIC and wholly owned subsidiaries of Bank of America Corporation.
Investment, insurance and annuity products:
Are Not FDIC Insured
Are Not Bank Guaranteed
May Lose Value
Are Not Deposits
Are Not Insured by Any Federal Government Agency
Are Not a Condition to Any Banking Service or Activity
You can click the "Return to Merrill; button now to return to the previous page, or you can close the new window after you leave.