How to Shop Safely Online

Shopping online offers lots of benefits that you won’t find shopping in a store or by mail. For example, the Internet is always open – seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And, bargains can be numerous online. Shopping on the Internet also can be as safe as shopping in a store or by mail. Keep in mind the following tips to help ensure that your online shopping experience is a safe one.

Use a secure browser

This is the software you use to navigate the Internet. Your browser should comply with industry security standards, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or SET Secure Electronic Transaction.

These standards encrypt or scramble the purchase information you send over the Internet, ensuring the security of your transaction. Most computers come with a browser already installed. You also can download some browsers for free over the Internet.

Shop with companies you know

Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. If you’re not familiar with a merchant, ask for a paper catalog or brochure to get a better idea of their merchandise and services. Also, determine the company’s refund and return policies before you place your order.

Keep your password private

Be creative when you establish a password, and never give it to anyone. Avoid using a telephone number, birth date, or a portion of your Social Security number. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Pay by credit or charge card

If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, consumers have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily hold payment while the creditor is investigating them.

In the case of unauthorized use of a consumer’s credit or charge card, consumers are generally held liable only for the first $50 in charges. Some cards may provide additional warranty or purchase protection benefits.

Keep a record

Be sure to print a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records. Also, you should know that the federal Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule covers orders made via the Internet.

This means that unless stated otherwise, merchandise must be delivered within 30 days, and if there are delays, the company must notify you.

Pay your bills online

Some companies let you pay bills and check your account status online. Before you sign up for any service, evaluate how the company is securing your financial and personal information.

Many companies explain their security procedures on their Web site. If you don’t see a security description, call or email the company and ask.

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