When shopping online, Arkansans need to keep track of purchases and watch bank and credit card statements to ensure transactions are legitimate, according to a news release from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

“Arkansans need to remain guarded when it comes to protecting personal and financial information,” Rutledge said. “Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals often have us all shopping online more, but predatory scam artists are ready and waiting for an opportunity to steal your money.”

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 abbreviation “https” in the web address to be sure information is secure and to help guard the security of information as it is transmitted to a website. Consumers should be sure their browsers 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 return, refund and shipping policies before making a 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. Don’t disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless one knows 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.

• 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 one suspects someone is using their accounts without permission.

• 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.

Details: Arkansas Attorney General’s office, 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.