Peak holiday shopping season draws online safety tips from Florida officials

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As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday approach, Florida leaders shared tips on how to keep your data secure and save money when shopping for deals online.

“Online shopping remains a convenient way for consumers to compare products and find bargains this winter shopping season,” said Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried. “However, consumers need to be on the lookout for potential fraud to keep their personal and financial data secure. The holidays can be stressful enough without having your information stolen. These simple steps can help every Floridian spend less time worrying and more time celebrating with their loved ones.”

Before you click “Place Order,” follow these tips on how to keep your data secure and save money as you shop:

  • Verify the site is secure. Before you enter your payment information, verify that the website address begins with “https.” The “s” stands for “secure” and means that your information is encrypted before it is transmitted.
  • Decide how to pay. Credit cards give you some protections that other payment methods may not. If there is a problem, the law allows you to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment while your dispute is investigated. Some companies cap your liability at $50 if someone uses your card without your authorization. Others may waive the charges entirely.
  • Plan ahead by setting a budget. Ask yourself how much you should spend and be sure to include delivery costs in your budget.
  • Determine what is most important to you about the item you are buying. What are the must have features versus the ones that would just be nice to have?
  • Take a few minutes to compare products. Type the product name into a search engine along with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Read online reviews from other people who bought the item or from product experts. Look for feedback about how the product works and its overall quality.
  • Look for reviews about the company selling the product. Read information about the company’s reputation and customer service. Don’t rely on just one source for information.
  • Verify the total cost of the product. Check shopping comparison sites to compare the price of the product at different shopping sites. Remember shipping costs and other add-on costs may not be included in the listed price.
  • Look for online coupon codes. Search the retailers name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.”
  • Check out the terms of the deal. Verify when you will receive your order. The law requires sellers to ship the item within 30 days of the sale. Can you get a refund if you must return the item, and who pays the shipping for returns? Is there a restocking fee?

If you have a problem with an online purchase or charge, first try to resolve the issue directly with the seller. If unable to come to a resolution, file a complaint at or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (for Spanish speakers).