LITTLE ROCK – Identity thieves and other con artists do not take time off during the holidays. In fact, these criminals often ramp up their schemes to target Arkansans during holiday shopping. Many of us are making more purchases than normal, especially online, which means there are more credit and debit card transactions to track.


According to the National Retail Federation, 59 percent of consumers cited online shopping as the most popular shopping destination this year. They also expect holiday sales to increase nearly 4 percent over last year. That means consumers are expected to spend an average of $967.13 this year on gifts.


“Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals mean Arkansans will be shopping more,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Most of us save all year for the holiday season and we should remember to be cautious to ensure online shopping experiences are positive and safe.”


Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online:


Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL to be sure information is secure to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.


Check the online merchant’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Some websites’ disclosures are easier to find than others — look at the bottom of the home page, on order forms or in the “About” or “FAQs” sections of a site.


Read and understand refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase.


Pay by credit card, which is the most secure payment method. Under federal law, charges can be disputed and consumer liability for theft is limited so long as consumers promptly notify the bank or credit card issuer. Additionally, many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the purchaser pays nothing if their credit card is stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.


Keep personal information private. Do not disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.


Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check out the seller’s reputation before bidding. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options. Never wire money for the purchase; use some other form of payment.


Keep records of online transactions and check for emails from merchants while doing business. Merchants may email important information about purchases.


Promptly and thoroughly review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases. Notify the credit or debit card issuer immediately if a card or checkbook is lost or stolen or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.


Also, research companies before finalizing the online purchase to ensure it is a credible merchant, and check the anticipated delivery date to make sure it will be delivered in time for the holidays.


For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.