As their Fraud Prevention Month campaign continues, members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti-Rackets Branch want to ensure your online shopping and auction experiences don’t result in emptied ‘shopping carts’ and bank accounts.

People use the Internet everyday for all types of activities, including buying and selling goods and services out of convenience — sometimes at lower than retail costs. No matter how you choose to shop online, you could be exposing your personal information to fraudsters, which can result in identity theft, significant financial losses or severe credit card obligations. For example, scammers may sell a product – often at a very cheap price – just so they can steal your payment card or personal information.

In 2011, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre — located in North Bay, Ontario — received 2,479 complaints of online shopping fraud in Canada. Of those, 1,682 were identified as victims who reported a loss of more than $3.6-million, including perpetrators using e-mail, the Internet and text messaging to access victims.

Some of the more common ways that people expose themselves to fraud while shopping online include:

creating an online profile that includes credit card or banking information; and,

saving your passwords on a computer in a file that has not been encrypted, or protected by a key or password.

To guard against becoming a victim, police advise you to only use your credit card online on trusted sites and ensure that your online transaction is encrypted. Look for websites with addresses starting with “https” or a padlock image on the page. This will indicate that the information entered on these pages and the transmission of the information is secure. Check to see whether your credit card issuer has a fraud protection policy and how you can be protected. Also, check your statements every month and report any errors or unauthorized transactions.