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Smart Shopping Tips

Tech11

The 2011 holiday shopping season’s in full swing and people are out in stores, and increasingly out on the Web, shopping for gifts. A season of good cheer and tidings it may be, but there’s no shortage of corrupt, criminal types working online who would like nothing better than to spoil the good mood.

“More people are turning to online shopping to avoid the hassle of parking or standing in line at stores,” said Michelle L. Corey, Better Business Bureau president and CEO. “While online shopping may be convenient, the Internet also is rife with scams that can part consumers from their money or hijack their personal information.”

Looking to remind and alert online shoppers to these threats, the Better Business Bureau has posted a list of 10 tips for safe online shopping. The holiday season reminds us of these important shopping tips, but they really apply year round.

Here they are:

  1. Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
  2. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (Web address) should start with “https://.” You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
  3. Shop trustworthy websites. Look for the BBB seal on the site and click to confirm that it’s valid. New BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site’s BBB Business Review. You also may find the review at www.bbb.org.
  4. Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. Don’t enter that information on unsolicited emails. If a site lacks a privacy policy, it could be a red flag that the site could sell your information without your permission.
  5. Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
  6. Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, the BBB recommends that you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
  7. Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never wire money.
  8. Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
  9. Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
  10. 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 aren’t shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.

Online shoppers can also check a company’s reputation using the BBB Business Review before making a purchase or by calling the BBB by phone at 503-212-3022.

 

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