Shopping Smart Online

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Shopping online can be a great way to compare prices with ease, avoid the crowds and even find great deals. It can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you never have to leave your home to do so. But, you should take precautions, as you would when you shop in stores, to make sure your experience continues to be pleasant going forward. Let’s take a look at seven important tips to consider when shopping online:

Do not shop from a public Wi-Fi connection.
Just like you would never show everyone in the store your credit card or debit card numbers, the same should hold true with your online shopping experience. Be sure that you only shop from a secure connection. Additionally, never use public computers to shop or check your accounts online.

Avoid wiring money to pay for an item.
If you purchase an item from an online auction site (i.e., eBay), and the seller requests that you wire your payment, don’t do it. You should only pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if something should happen in the future.

Know who you are dealing with online.
Anyone can set up an online shop. You should be sure to confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number prior to paying anything to them.

Know what it will cost and the terms of the deal.
Make sure that you have done your homework when it comes to purchasing anything online. Read the “fine print” and make sure there is a return policy in case the item ordered doesn’t come to you as advertised. Many sites will offer tracking options so you can see exactly where your purchase is and provide an estimate of when it will arrive.

Use a credit card to make a purchase.
If you pay by credit card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. If your credit card number has been compromised and someone is making unauthorized purchases with it, your liability is generally limited to the first $50 in charges.

Keep records and check your accounts.
Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt and emails you send and receive from the seller. Be diligent in reviewing your credit card and checking statements each month to be sure there are no unauthorized charges or issues.

Do not email any financial information.
Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information, such as your credit card number, checking account number, or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through a seller’s website, make sure you look for indicators that the site is secure (e.g., URL begins with “https, a lock logo on the URL, etc.).