BBB: Online shoppers: Keep scammers out of your cart

12/08/2012 7:02 AM

12/08/2012 7:04 AM

Today’s holiday shoppers don’t just rely on storefront window displays when it comes to gift selection. The windows they use are frequently more of the Microsoft Windows variety.

If you find the ease of shopping on your computer more to your liking, the Better Business Bureau offers these tips to keep your online shopping experience scam-free and Grinch-free:

• Keep your computer protected. Install a firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware software. Watch for updates to those programs and install those as well. Get in the habit of regularly running virus scans. Scammers are always changing their programs and it’s important that you keep your computer up with them by constantly improving its counter measures.

• Be sure the merchant’s site is secure. Its web address should start with https://. Look as well for a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

• Safeguard your personal information. Take the time to read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. Never enter that information in reply to unsolicited e-mails. No privacy policy on the site? That’s a red flag that the site could sell your information without your permission.

• Too-good-to-be-true almost never is true. Free or very low prices may be offered on websites or on unsolicited e-mails for hard-to-find items. There could be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for the fine print and read it.

• Don’t get hooked by a phisher. Those e-mails claiming a problem with your order, your account or your package are not sent by legitimate businesses. They are trying to get your personal information. When you receive such an e-mail you should call the contact number on the original site where you made the purchase. Ask them if there is a problem.

• Pay with a credit card. Federal law says you can dispute the charge if you don’t receive the item. An unauthorized charge on the card is within your rights to dispute as well. Many cards have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Watch your credit card statements for unauthorized charges.

• Take the time to document the transaction. Save a copy of your order’s confirmation page and any e-mails confirming the order until you actually receive the item and it meets your satisfaction.

• Get a tracking number. Find out when and how the product will be shipped, especially if you need it to reach the destination before Christmas. A tracking number can help you find a lost order.

• Know your rights. By federal law, orders made by phone, mail or online must be shipped by the date promised. If no date is specified then it must be sent within 30 days. You can cancel and are entitled to a refund if those conditions are not met. You may also reject defective or misrepresented merchandise.

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