02 Mar 10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping
Follow these 10 tips to ensure a safe and pleasant online shopping experience: Trust your instincts, make sure the Internet connection is secure, know who you’re dealing with and understand the terms of the deal, know what you buying, know what it will cost, use the safest payment method, keep detailed records, and protect your personal and financial information, inspect your purchase, and avoid online shopping scams.
Trust your instincts
If you don’t feel comfortable purchasing or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.
Make sure the Internet connection is secure
Shop only from your home computer. Never shop at a terminal in an internet café or library. Before you give your payment information, check for indicators that security software is in place. Look for a green address bar with “https” in the URL. This indicates the website is secure for ecommerce transactions. It’s a way to encrypt data sent and received over the Web so that monetary and other sensitive transactions are secure. Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.
Know who you’re dealing with and understand the terms of the deal
Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. Also read their Return and Refund Policies, including shipping and handling charges. Unfortunately, not all online sellers allow items to be returned and, if they do, there is sometimes a restocking fee. Read the fine print. If you can’t find this information on their website, ask the seller through an email or telephone call. Finally, many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and know when it will arrive.
Know what you’re buying
Closely read the seller’s description of the product. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be illegal counterfeits. Always remember, if an offer sounds suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.
Know what it will cost
Comparison shop before you buy, both online and offline. Visit websites that offer price comparisons and then compare “apples to apples.”
Use the safest way to pay on the Internet
Always pay online with a credit card. This way your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. An alternative way to pay is by using a third party like PayPalTM which prevents sellers from seeing your sensitive financial details and ensures a smooth transaction. Never send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.
Keep Detailed Records
Print out and date a copy of your online transactions including the product description, online receipt, the terms and conditions, warranties, company information, even confirming emails, and save them with your records of your purchase. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.
Protect Your Information
Never send financial information like your credit card, checking account or Social Security number by email. No one should ask for your personal information by email – not even your bank.
Inspect your purchase
Inspect your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it. If you discover a problem, contact the seller right away. Document in writing any problems you have, ask the seller for a repair or refund, and keep a copy of your correspondence.
Watch out for online shopping scams
While shopping online is convenient, it isn’t always safe. Fraudsters are attracted to where money is, and money is definitely on the internet. While there are many genuine merchants, there is an ever increasing amount of fraudulent activity on the Internet. Deal with companies or individuals that you know by reputation or experience. If you are not familiar with the company, do some research.
How to Report Online Shopping Fraud
If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly with the seller, buyer, or site operator. If that doesn’t work, file a complaint with:
- The Federal Trade Commission
- Your state Attorney General
- Your county or state consumer protection agency. Look under “Where to File a Complaint.”
- The Better Business Bureau
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