1) Protect your computer: Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates.
2) Shop trustworthy websites: Look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retail websites. Click on the seals to confirm they’re valid.
4) Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals: Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails may offer extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. There may be hidden costs – or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
5) Beware of phishing: Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or account to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an e-mail, the BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm any problem with the transaction.
6) Confirm that your online purchase is secure: Look at the website address or URL in the box at the top of your browser screen. There should be an “s” after “http” or a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. If you have doubts about security, right-click anywhere on the page, and select “Properties” to see the real URL. The dialog box should say whether the site is encrypted.
7) Pay with a credit card: Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies if someone steals your card number and uses it. Never wire money.
8) Keep documentation of your order: Save a copy of the confirmation page or e-mails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
Check your credit card statements often: The BBB recommends that you check your account regularly for suspicious activity by going online or calling your credit card company. Make sure statements match up with purchases you know you made.
9) 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 are not shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or if it was misrepresented.
For more information about shopping safely online, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.onguardonline.gov.