10 Tips for Safe, Savvy Online Holiday Shopping

Shopping for gifts online during the holiday season is more than convenient – it’s a sound alternative to the crowds, stress and fatigue of shopping at retail stores. But it isn’t without its own unique challenges.

Online ShoppingThese tips, adapted from the Better Business Bureau, will help make your online shopping safer, easier and more effective:

1. Update your computer’s security – Make sure you’ve got the latest spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a secure firewall.

2. Use trustworthy Web sites
– Check on the seller’s reputation as a business and with
consumers. Look on the seller’s Web site for a BBB “trustmark,” a logo that declares the seller is a BBB-accredited business. Click on the seal to confirm its validity.

3. Protect your personal information – Read the site’s privacy policy to find out your personal information might be used. If the site doesn’t have a privacy policy posted, that’s a sign that your personal information may be sold to others without your go-ahead.

4. Trust your instincts – If an offer on a Web site or e-mail sounds too good to be true, it may be. If you’re not comfortable, pass it up.

5. Beware of phishing – If you’ve made an online purchase and then get an email claiming problems with the order and a request for your personal financial information, be wary. Call the contact number on the Web site where you made the purchase and ask if there was a problem.

6. Make sure your online purchase is secure.
Look in the Web site address line (the url) for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. Right-click anywhere on the page of a site and select “Properties.” You’ll be able to see the real URL and a dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.

7. Pay with a credit card. Federal law allows you to dispute charges to your credit card if you don’t get what you were promised or if there are unauthorized charges.

8. Keep documentation. Save the final confirmation page or the confirmation email that documents your online order. You may need it if your order doesn’t arrive or if the seller has no record of your payment.

9. Don’t wait for a monthly, mailed credit card statement
– check it often. Check your credit card statements for suspicious activity by regularly calling the credit card company or checking your statement online.

10. Remember your legal rights.
Orders made by mail, phone or online must – by federal law – be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery date was stated, within 30 days. If you don’t receive the delivery on time, you can cancel and demand a refund. You also have the right to reject “defective or misrepresented” merchandise, the BBB says.

Updated August 2012