During the holiday season, many of us are rushing around charging various items, making it easy to lose track of what you charged. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas reminds consumers it's extremely important to make sure you check every charge to make sure it's yours and it's accurate now and after the holidays are over.
Under federal law, shoppers can dispute the charges on their credit cards if they don't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit cards, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Check your credit card statements often for unauthorized activity. Don't wait for paper statements. The BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
The BBB recommends the following to help prevent unauthorized credit card charges:
Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. Save a copy of the web page and any emails for future reference as well as any receipts obtained from brick and mortar stores.
Is your online purchase secure? Look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. Don't be fooled by spoof sites that feature convincing security measures. If you have doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is "not encrypted."
Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the "buyer" into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an email, BBB recommends picking up the phone after verifying the genuine number and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm there really is a problem with the transaction.
Watch out for skimming. A dishonest employee at the point of purchase could scan the card on an authorized machine before returning the card. The card number could then be used by the employee and/or sold to someone else. Make sure your card stays in sight, and never let anyone leave of your presence with the card if you can help it. Check statements regularly.
Identity theft can happen to you whether you're shopping online or shopping at the mall, making it critical we all take specific steps to fight low- and high-tech identity thieves.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving Reports to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. For more information or to check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Monica Russo is director of investigations and media relations with the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston and South Texas. Send questions regarding homeowner issues to Monica Russo, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include mailing address and phone number on letters and emails.