AG Biden urges consumers to protect personal info during online holiday shopping season

December 1, 2012

As the holiday shopping season begins, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is reminding Delawareans about several important steps they can take while making online purchases to protect their personal financial information.

“Going online is a great way to find holiday gifts, but shoppers should do some basic things to make sure that their sensitive personal financial information does not fall into the wrong hands,” Biden said.

This year’s holiday season is already off to a fast start. IBM Smarter Commerce, which analyzes sales by leading American retailers, reported that online sales increased by 17.4 percent this Thanksgiving over last year’s and by 20.7 percent the following day.

The precautions Delawareans should take when shopping online include:

Purchase only from reputable retailers you are familiar with. Make sure you have the retailer’s physical address and phone number in case you have problems with the purchase.

Never send personal or financial information through email. Legitimate companies will not ask you to send personal identifying information via email, because it is not a secure way to transfer such information.

Pay with a credit card. Using a credit card provides consumer protections not afforded by other payment options such as debit cards.

Read the fine print. When shopping online, it is important to read the product description and fine print very closely to ensure you understand exactly what you are purchasing. Also, find out the website's shipping and return policies. Some retailers that offer free shipping do charge fees for returned merchandise.

Comparison shop and figure total cost, including shipping charges. Use websites that provide a list of online retailers and the prices they’re charging for the item.

Keep a record of all transactions. Print records of all your online orders, including the confirmation page, which will include information about order, payment and shipping, and any emails to and from retailers.

Place an order only when you know the site is secure. If a site is secure, the web address will begin with “https” rather than “http,” and a locked padlock icon will be visible at the bottom right of the computer screen. Be aware, however, that some con artists have learned to forge these security indicators. Also, avoid making purchases over public, nonsecure networks such as those at coffee shops or libraries.

Protect  computers with antivirus and antispyware programs and be creative with passwords you set up for online stores.

Biden encouraged consumers who believe they have been the victims of fraud to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at 800-220-5424 or email