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E-receipts are great – but watch out for ‘spear phishers’

The growing trend of retailers offering digital or e-receipts to customers has its advantages and, inevitably, its disadvantages.

Younger shoppers are at ease with the convenience of having sales receipts e-mailed to them. Some older shoppers are a bit more of a hard sell and prefer paper. Both views have their advantages.

Consumers need to be fully aware of the issues surrounding the e-receipt trend. Here is a look at those issues and some precautions worth taking.

Convenience

The reduction in paper clutter that comes with digital receipts is their most obvious advantage.

There is no need to physically file them away for purposes of returns, warranties or taxes. It can all be done electronically, and they can be easily retrieved should future need arise.

There are online companies with apps and programs that consumers can utilize for the purpose of digitally organizing e-receipts. You create an account with the company, providing your credit or debit card information, and they track your transactions. They store information received from the retailers that you do business with.

Care must be taken, of course, to avoid scammers who mimic such services in order to steal your information.

What’s in it for retailers?

Stores welcome e-receipts as a means to engage with their customers and to save money.

Getting what are called accurate contact points with their shoppers enables them to build a more efficient customer base and enhances their marketing potential. In other words, they can sell you more merchandise.

It’s all part of the heavy push these days toward targeting consumers with the specific types of promotions and advertisements individually tailored to them and therefore more effective. Because too much of this sort of marketing can cause ill will and backfire on businesses, many only will send additional ads (read: spam) to customers who opt in to receiving them.

No-spam policies of this sort make shoppers more likely to say yes to digital receipts.

E-receipt tips

Here is what consumers should remember when considering going paperless with e-receipts:

▪ How secure is my information? Ask the store how they will keep your information secure. Find out whether they sell the info to third parties. If so, be aware that unsolicited e-mails that request your information later could be scammers wanting to download malware onto your computer.

▪ Can I opt out of promotional e-mails? Maybe you don’t want to opt out if it’s a favorite store. But if you don’t, get ready for coupons, newsletters and other promotional messages. Consider using a separate e-mail address just for paperless receipts to keep them organized.

▪ “Spear phishing” is a risk. In the event of a data breach, or someone getting ahold of the store customers’ e-mail addresses, scam e-mails posing as the store can attempt to get your information or download malware onto your computer.

All sorts of tactics have been used, such as claiming there was a problem with your transaction and asking that you click on a link to fix it. Watch carefully for spear phishers.

▪ Keep that anti-virus software up-to-date. Scammers take advantage of those who do not keep their security updated. Always keep yours current.

▪ Check your smartphone right there at the store after your transaction to be sure the clerk sent your receipt to the right address. Mistakes happen.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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