A few warnings about online holiday shopping from the state Department of Consumer Protection:
>> Unsecured WiFi networks – Most smart phones are designed to operate on a carrier’s cellular network as well as on WiFi hotspots. When connected to a public hotspot, be careful entering sensitive information – banking and credit card information, for instance — into online shopping sites and applications, since the connection is not secure and others are likely to be snooping on the network.
>> Holiday phishing and SMSishing scams – Scammers may try to take advantage of bargain hunters by sending out phishing emails and text messages (known as “SMSishing”) offering seemingly unbeatable deals on holiday gifts, particularly hard-to-find toys. Clicking on these links may lead to phishing sites that install mobile malware or seek to get credit card or other sensitive information from shoppers.
>> Bogus online coupons – Today’s consumers increasingly rely on coupon apps and coupons specifically designed for storage on smart phones. Beware of suspicious emails or online ads offering these coupons, as they could lead to mobile malware sites.
>> Phony social network promotions – Consumers who use their phones to check in on Facebook or other social networks are likely to be targeted by ads for holiday deals, gifts, giveaways and promotions. Be wary about clicking on these ads, particularly if doing so prompts you to download an unfamiliar app to your phone.
>> QR codes – QR codes are the square images resembling barcodes that are increasingly found online and in print advertising. Scanning these barcodes with a smart phone camera can take you to an unsecured mobile website or cause you to download an app. Scammers have begun to take advantage of this technology to send consumer malware apps that can surreptitiously sign the user up for premium text message services.
If you have an unsatisfactory online shopping experience, start by contacting the merchant. If you still are not satisfied with the answers or action taken, you may file a written complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection, 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut, 06106. You may also want to notify the Connecticut Better Business Bureau and The Federal Trade Commission.