Online shopping is convenient because shoppers can avoid waiting in lines and are able to shop at any hour. However, you need to watch out for scams that can cost money or compromise your personal information.
Shoppers can prepare themselves for online shopping by browsing for the items they are seeking in advance and comparing prices. Read a site’s policies for returns and understand shipping policies before you enter your credit card number.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers 10 tips for safe online shopping:
- Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
- Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL should start with “https://.” You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right corner of the screen.
- Shop trustworthy websites. Look for the BBB accredited business seal on websites and click to confirm that it’s valid. BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site’s BBB Business Review.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may display free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or you may inadvertently sign up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
- Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
- Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charge if you don’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never pay with pre-paid debit cards or wire money to someone you don’t know.
- Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
- Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product by a certain date, find out when the seller intends to ship it and, if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
- Know your rights. Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren’t shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.