We all do our share of online shopping, both for want of something we can’t find in local stores, and sometimes because of the potential bargains we sometimes find. The important thing to remember is that when you’re dealing with an online order, you’re not necessarily going to be able to find the person you dealt with tomorrow.
Here are some tips for safe online shopping:
Get the Details
Know who you're dealing with.
Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.
Know what you're buying.
Read the seller's description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like "refurbished," "vintage," or "close-out" may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition. Name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.
Know what it will cost.
Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare "apples to apples." Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase.
Check out terms like refund policies and delivery dates.
Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order?
Pay by credit card.
If you pay by credit or charge card online, 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.
Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.
Protect Your Information
Don't email any financial information.
If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly. If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint, your state Attorney General, using contact information at naag.org, and if the situation seems to indicate fraud, your city or county law officers.