Shopping online can be scary for even the most Internet savvy shopper simply because there are so many ways that thieves can take advantage of you as you make your online holiday purchases. Of course not all websites are going to be unsafe to shop on. Nevertheless The Federal Trade Commission has become involved in instigating helpful tips that consumers can use to be more safe when shopping online especially around the holidays. Here are a few tips that can help you keep your guard up and protect yourself while you are shopping online:
•Make sure the company is legitimate — With the Internet a company can be here today and gone tomorrow. Before making a purchase look into the company to make sure that they have a physical location somewhere.
•Fine print — When it comes to fine print there is a standing rule: read it! Read the seller’s description of the product closely and look into the different ways that worthless material can be made to sound appealing. Words like “vintage,” “character,” “designer,” etc. could really mean anything. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
•Remember shipping — Always consider the price of the object with shipping and handling included. Many careless customers forget to account for this price difference and may not even realize that they have agreed to pay the cost of shipping along with the product. Make sure you know what the total of ALL your costs will be before deciding whether or not this purchase is worth the price you will have to pay.
•Never send cash or check — Never send payment for an item you are purchasing online through the mail and never send cash or checks. There is no way to track your cash if it is taken and you do not get your product in return. It may be a little easier to find a check, but not very much easier. A credit card is the best means for buying online. Even if your card is used fraudulently, you are only responsible for $50 of the lost funds under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
•Look for return policy and guarantee — You need to know if the company that you are purchasing from is willing to refund your money if what you receive in the mail is not what you thought that you would be getting. You may also want to ask if they will refund your shipping money or provide you with a way to ship back the items that you are returning at no cost to you. So close to the holidays, you may not have time to wait for things not only to ship (some things take as long as 30 days just to process for shipping) but to be returned and reshipped if something is not right. Print out these policies for evidence in case you will need to use it later.
•Don’t e-mail personal information — Even if you plan on e-mailing financial or other information to a reputable site keep in mind that a sites security features do not always include e-mail correspondence. You should never be asked to e-mail or instant message personal information.
•Remember to protect your end of the transaction — When you make a purchase online there are two parties involved. You know to check and make sure that the company website that you are doing business with is secured, but what about the information that is being sent from your computer. Using anti-virus software and a firewall are essential to ensuring that both channels of communication are safe.