Among the most common holiday shopping cons is cybersquatting, when scammers steal or slightly alter the name or website address of a well-known company to engage in rip-offs including identity theft, credit card fraud and sale of counterfeit goods.
This holiday season, "Overstock" is certainly not being underutilized by scammers.
The Better Business Bureau warns of a "noticeable trend" of phony websites using the word "overstock" somewhere in their domain name, "hoping to fool consumers into thinking they are shopping with Overstock.com."
Because of its popularity - and respected reputation (with an A rating from BBB) - "it's no wonder scammers try to mimic them," says Carrie A. Hurt of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
So if the real Overstock.com is where you want to shop, understand this: "If the name is longer, or uses any additional words, or letters, if it has any words other than 'overstock' before the dot-com, it's not our website," says company official Jonathan Johnson.
However, understand that other legitimate websites may have "overstock" somewhere in a web address - usually at the very end (after the .com) to indicate a specific page where overstocked items are being sold. Expect something like this: www.samplecompany.com/overstocks.
Overstock name games aside, here are your safest bets for any online shopping:
- Type the site's address yourself, rather than clicking on links found through keyword searches. Be especially wary of links offered by strangers in emails or on social media sites.
- Pay with a credit card, which offers you more protections than a debit card.
- Never provide your credit card or other sensitive information on any page whose address doesn't begin with "https://" rather than "http://". But even with an "https://", avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots for online shopping or other financial transactions.
- For a quick (but not foolproof) legitimacy check, visit the website's "Contact Us" page to see if there's a phone number and a physical address. (Avoid any site that is missing both; be wary if it's missing either). Bogus websites are more likely to rely on fax numbers or post office boxes.
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