Do business with companies you already know. If the company is unfamiliar, do your homework before buying their products. If you decide to buy something from an unknown company, start out with an inexpensive order to learn if the company is trustworthy.
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card. In the event something goes wrong, you are protected under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you can withhold payments during a creditor investigation. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorization, you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge. We recommend that you obtain one credit card that you use only for online payments to make it easier to detect wrongful credit charges.
E-commerce shopping by check leaves you vulnerable to bank fraud. And sending a cashier’s check or money order doesn’t give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase.
Make sure your credit card is a true credit card and not a debit card, a check card, or an ATM card. As with checks, a debit card exposes your bank account to thieves. Your checking account could be wiped out in minutes. Further, debit and ATM cards are not protected by federal law to the extent that credit cards are.
Providing your Social Security number is not a requirement for placing an order at an e-commerce web site. There is no need for the merchant to ask for it. Giving out your Social Security number could lead to having your identity stolen.
When placing an order, there is certain information that you must provide to the web merchant such as your name and address. Often, a merchant will try to obtain more information about you. They may ask questions about your leisure lifestyle or annual income. This information is used to target you for marketing purposes. It can lead to “spam” or even direct mail and telephone solicitations.
Most reputable e-commerce web sites require the shopper to log-in before placing or viewing an order. The shopper is usually required to provide a username and a password. Never reveal your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your birth date, mother’s maiden name, or numbers from your driver’s license or Social Security number. Do not reuse the same password for other sites. The best password has at least eight characters and includes numbers and letters.
After placing an order online, you should receive a confirmation page that reviews your entire order. It should include the costs of the order, your customer information, product information, and the confirmation number.
We recommend you print out at least one copy of the web page(s) describing the item you ordered as well as the page showing company name, postal address, phone number, and legal terms, including return policy. Keep it for your own records for at least the period covered by the return/warranty policy.
Even under the best of circumstances, shoppers sometimes need to return merchandise. Check the web site for cancellation and return policies.
Check your monthly credit card statements for transactions you do not recognize. Remember to check your monthly credit card statements for transactions made over the internet. You need to be aware that some company names which appear on your statement may differ from their website names.
And probably the best advice anyone can give you about internet shopping is the old phrase, “When in doubt, leave it out.” If something about the website seems odd or shabby or unprofessional, go elsewhere. There are far too many ecommerce sites out there selling the same items that you should risk poor shipping practices or identity theft or anything else.