Web Sales Are Up!

Online shopping seems to be the ticket this year. Despite high unemployment and a sluggish economy, online holiday shopping is seeing a bit of a boost so far.

Online spending during the first 41 days of November-December holiday season is up by about 3% this year, according to comScore, Inc., an online tracking firm. So far this year, online holiday shoppers have spent $19.9 billion dollars. And last week, when shoppers spent $800 million on two separate days, overall online spending increased by 4% over the same week in 2008. Thursday, Dec. 10, topped the week with spending of more than $853 million.

Monday, December 14 — otherwise known as Green Monday — is likely to produce the heaviest online spending total for the season and represents the best opportunity to finally surpass that elusive $900 million in a single day spending threshold. The early part of this week should bring us the heaviest online spending days of the season before consumers refocus their attention on brick-and-mortar retail locations to finish up their holiday shopping.

This year’s online spending increase takes on new meaning in light of another report released today that shows that more than two-thirds of consumers have cut use of credit cards due to recent changes to the terms and conditions.

So with all this online shopping going on, “mere mortals” such as you and I need to be ever vigilant in order to identify and avoid web based scams. The New England Better Business Bureau offers these timely tips:

BBB recommends consumers look for the following red flags when identifying suspect electronics Web sites:

The prices for items are too good to be true. Everyone is looking for a bargain on electronics and scammers use tantalizingly low prices to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, it’s a sign to walk away.

Spelling and grammatical errors abound.
Some phony electronics Web sites are created by scammers overseas. As a result, the Web sites, or spam e-mails directing shoppers to the site, might have many grammatical mistakes or spelling errors.

The business accepts payment via wire transfer only. Scammers often ask victims to wire payment through Western Union or MoneyGram because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for electronics online. If the Web site turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card carrier and hopefully get your money back.

The business has a bad rating with BBB. Always review the business’s reliability report online at www.bbb.org to find out what rating it has received from BBB. If you don’t find a BBB Reliability Report®, it doesn’t necessarily mean the business is fraudulent, but it may indicate the business has not been around for long or has yet to develop a track record with consumers.

The Web site fraudulently uses security seals. Scam websites will often display the seals from certification organizations such as VeriSign, IQNet or TRUSTe without authorization or falsely claim to be accredited by BBB. When shopping online you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business’s use of the seal is legitimate.

For more timely information, visit the Boston Better Business Bureau

If you’ve fired up the computer to do some holiday shopping, be careful where you click.

A recent report from the U.S. Senate says hundreds of online retailers have added marketing come-ons to their transactions that have bilked consumers out of more than $1 billion.

Here’s how it works: Right after you make a purchase, a screen pops up offering cash back on your next purchase. Sometimes it looks like a coupon, sometimes it’s offered through eye-catching text highlighted in bold red or blue.

But customers who click on the offer are actually enrolling in “membership clubs” such as Affinion, Vertrue and Webloyalty. While they do provide discounts, the come-ons are so misleading that customers rarely realize they’ve signed up.

Of course that doesn’t stop the clubs from dinging the customer’s credit card for $10 to $19.95 a month until he or she notices the charge on their bill and complains.

How do the membership clubs obtain the card number, expiration date and security code? From the retailer where the customer just made the purchase.

This isn’t something that only disreputable online retailers are doing either. Senate investigators found over 450 sites, including such big names as Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Victoria’s Secret and US Airways, are working with the clubs — and splitting the profits.

If you’ve read this far – you deserve a little prize so here’s a website that may be of interest to you.
Bargain Deals – Where high prices come to die! Closeouts and overstock products.

Have fun!

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