Senator Flanagan Offers Safety Tips For Holiday Online Shoppers


Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) would like to remind residents to be careful when shopping online during the holiday season.

"With more consumers using the Internet to shop, there is a growing need for awareness of identity theft and fraud. While many online retailers offer extremely safe and convenient shopping, every online shopper must remain vigilant to avoid scams and theft," stated Senator Flanagan. "By following some simple tips and staying alert, residents can decrease their chances of becoming a victim of identity theft."

According to the New York State Consumer Protection Board, online shoppers should follow thesesafety tips:

-Know the company with whom you are dealing: Anyone can create a web site that looks professional. If you are not familiar with the company, request a catalog or brochure to get a better idea of its merchandise and services. You can also check the reliability of a company with the Better Business Bureau at

-Use a secure website and browser: Make sure that the web site contains a closed lock or unbroken key icon on your screen’s status bar and look for the "http" in the web site address when making your purchase. For your protection, also make sure that your web browser complies with the most current technology such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to ensure that your purchase and financial information is scrambled. If a company's web site does not provide these protections, you should consider ordering by telephone.

-Read the privacy policy of the web site: This will help you determine whether your personal information, such as your e-mail address and other identifying information, will be used or shared with others. Determine what security features are in place so that any personal information cannot be obtained and used fraudulently.

-Know your rights: The Federal Mail/Telephone Order Merchandise Rule covers online purchases. Your order must be delivered within 30 days unless otherwise stated and you must be notified of any delays in shipping. If the company cannot reach you to obtain your consent to the delay, they must, without being asked, promptly refund all the money paid for the unshipped merchandise.

-Paying by Credit Card: Credit cards offer additional protection in case of a dispute. Generally, you are liable for the first $50 in charges, but some companies offer an online shopping guarantee that ensures you are not held liable for any unauthorized charges.

-Paying by Electronic Fund Transfers: These transfers involve debit cards and other electronic banking transactions which result from direct withdrawal of cash from your bank account. Unlike a credit card, this method of payment requires you to notify your bank of an error on your statement within 60 days. Also, if the card is stolen or lost, your liability can depend on when you report it. If the theft or loss is reported within two business days, you will not be responsible for more than $50 of unauthorized use.

-Paying COD: If paying by credit card or electronic fund transfers are not options, request that the merchandise be sent ‘cash on delivery’ (COD). You can also make a payment with a personal check or money order since these methods are easier to trace than a cashier’s check.

Additional Tips:
Always maintain a record of your online transaction by printing a copy of your purchase order and confirmation from the web site. If the company sends you a confirmation via electronic mail, you should retain a copy of that correspondence until all concerns regarding the transaction are satisfied.

Prior to purchasing any item online, check shipping and handling fees, compare prices and fully review any warranty information.

Finally, check the company’s refund and shipping policies.

If you would like to order a free brochure from Senator Flanagan regarding additional ways you can protect yourself from identity theft during the holiday season, please click here.