published Friday, October 7th, 2011

Winsett: Getting receipts in email invites host of cautions

By Jim Winsett

Q: Retrieving the paperless receipt from some retailers requires access to the Internet and email from the retailer's web site. Does this activity invite fraud, identity theft and privacy intrusions on the Web?

A: Some retailers and banks have started offering customers the option of having receipts, such as those from purchases or ATM transactions, emailed instead of receiving paper receipts.

E-receipts not only save retailers money, they eliminate the clutter of paper receipts and allows you to electronically file them away until they are needed for returns, warranties or taxes.

Retailers may offer e-receipts directly. You can enroll simply by providing your email address to which your receipt is sent, detailing transaction information.

There are also online companies that offer to organize and store digital receipts. You must create an account and provide your credit or debit card information, which the company uses to track transactions. After purchases, the company retrieves receipt information directly from retailers and stores it online.

While paperless receipts may offer savings for retailers and convenience to you, be sure you are aware of what else you could be receiving in your inbox. Along with receipts, businesses may send junk mail filled with surveys, coupons and other promotional offers. They may also use your information to build profiles on demographics and buying habits.

Having receipts emailed can also make you susceptible to phishing and other identity theft scams. Posing as retailers or banks, scammers may send emails claiming there are problems and request that you click their links to provide personal information, which is used to steal your identity.

If you are interested in paperless receipts, your Better Business Bureau advises you to:

• Find out how businesses keep your information secure.

• Determine if businesses sell your information to third-parties.

• Ask if you can opt out of receiving promotional emails.

• Use a separate email account for e-receipts.

• Ignore unsolicited emails requesting personal information.

• Never click on links or download documents from unfamiliar people or companies.

• Update anti-virus software and security patches to the system software regularly.

Paperless receipts may be ideal if you want to store receipts without the clutter. Be sure you know the details and protect yourself from identity theft and possible scams. Check companies out with your BBB by visiting www.bbb.org .

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
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