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How to spot a fake online store

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| December 24, 2020 1:00 AM

With more of us shopping online these days, it's important to be on the lookout for fake online stores. The prevalence of fake online stores can make shopping on the internet dangerous. But you can spot a bogus online vendor if you know what to look for.

A Post Falls reader recently discovered that he had bought something from a fake online store. He'd received an email that the package was on its way but after about a week and no package, he called the company with his tracking number to see why the parcel was delayed. Turns out the tracking number wasn’t one the company used because he had bought the merchandise from a fake site.

Since he had paid by credit card, the reader was able to call his Visa card company and dispute the charge. He was given a provisional credit pending the outcome of the dispute.

Here are a few ways to spot a fake online store.

1. Scrutinize the company URL. Many fraudulent sites are looking more and more like the legitimate websites so we need to be careful especially if you used the search engine to get to the site. Look at the address bar to confirm that you are on the webpage you intended to be on.

2. Click on the Padlock in the Address Bar. If you click on the padlock a drop down box will open and it will tell you security information about the site. Generally a padlock symbol signifies a secure site but not always, as some fake sites have been able to replicate the padlock icon.

3. Use a website checker. To check the legitimacy of a website, go to UrlVoid.com, enter the website’s URL into the search bar and details about the site will pop up. Another good way to check the safety of a website is to go to Google Transparency Report. This can tell you if any unsafe information has been found on the website.

Remember, hackers and scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick even the most savvy computer users. Your browser might also give you a cybersecurity warning so it’s a good idea to heed the warning.

If you come across a fake site, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov/Home/ComplaintChoice/default.aspx

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Can a battery tester save you money?

Seems like lots of gadgets we use around the house like remote controls, toys and small electronics use batteries to make them work. Usually, the device takes multiple batteries and not just one. So have you ever stopped to wonder how much you spend a year on those batteries? Probably too much but there is a way to reduce that bill.

A few months ago I purchased an inexpensive battery tester at Lowes for about $5. When the remote control would go dead, I used to replace all of the batteries to get it to work again. Now, before I replace all the batteries in the control, I use the tester to see if all the batteries are actually dead since the tester allows me to see how much power is left in each battery.

I was surprised to learn that some of the batteries still had some life in them. Now I just replace the ones I need to, which saves me money.

The tester allows me to test batteries of various sizes, including AAA to 9-volt batteries and the button cell batteries that are used in key fobs and candles.

The tester measures the electrical current flowing through the battery. Most testers have adjustable clamps with conductive material attached that fit various sizes of batteries. Once the battery is in place, the tester can sense how much power is left in it.

If you have the electronic tester, it will show you how many volts remain in the battery. If you have the needle indicator type, it tells you whether the battery is still good or if it needs to be replaced. I figure if I save $10 a year on batteries and the tester costs me $5, that’s not a bad deal.

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Should you buy an extended warranty on electronics?

It's nice to find a great deal on a new television. But what is your answer when the sales person asks if you want to add an extended warranty to your purchase? The sales person will tell you that these extended warranties protect your purchase. But the real question is, are these warranties worth it?

Many experts agree that purchasing an extended warranty on appliances or electronics isn’t worth the price you pay. And despite what the salesperson says, an extended warranty does not protect your investment because a TV, washer, dryer or DVD player is not an investment.

About the only time you might want to buy an extended warranty is on a new car. And if you do, consider the car manufacturer’s own warranty, not a third-party auto warranty. Extended warranties on used cars have their risks because they limit who can work on your vehicle and exclude previous issues.

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Remember: I’m on your side. If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.