The ease of purchasing items online cannot be denied. Most of us are so busy that we appreciate the convenience of buying gifts and necessities over the Internet instead of having to make a trip to the store. While the ease of this method is attractive, it is important to take precautions to ensure that your online shopping experience is positive and safe. Give payment information only to businesses you know and trust, and only when and where it is appropriate – like on an order form. Never give your password to anyone online, even your Internet service provider. Do not download files sent by strangers or click on hyperlinks from strangers. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program that could hijack your modem.
- When submitting purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL address for a website to be sure information is secure during transmission.
- Use a secure browser — software that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet — to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.
- Read and understand the refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase. Look closely at disclosures about the seller’s refund and shipping policies.
- Pay by credit card, the most secure way. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you do not get what you were promised. You may also dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card. Many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card.
- Keep personal information private. Do not disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.
- Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check out the seller’s reputation before you bid. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options, and never wire money for the purchase. Use some other form of payment.
- Do not be tempted by offers of free money. Con artists take advantage of cash-strapped consumers during the holidays to offer personal loans or credit cards for a fee upfront. These scammers simply take the money and run.
- Keep records of online transactions and check for emails from merchants with whom you are doing business. Merchants may send you important information about your purchases.
- Review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if your credit or debit card or checkbook is lost or stolen, or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.