Internet shopping offers a convenient way to make your holiday gift purchases without leaving the comfort of your home. But, before making any purchases on the Internet, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to be aware of when cyber shopping:
1. Think about security, starting with your connection. Unsecured information sent over the Internet can be intercepted. This is why you should consider a secure browser, which will encrypt or scramble purchase information.
2. Determine the level of security the vendor has. More e-commerce companies are forthcoming in their security measures and privacy policies. If you are not comfortable entering your credit card number online, call it in to the company’s 800 number or fax it.
3. Ask for the company’s physical location, including the address and phone number. Before making a purchase, call the phone number to verify the information you were supplied. Check the company’s reliability with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
4. Request a catalog or brochure to get a better idea of the merchant’s merchandise and services. These pieces should supply you with the permanent business information you will need if you have to contact the company again.
5. Determine the company’s refund and return policies. This will make your purchasing decision easier, since it demonstrates if the company stands behind their product.
6. Do not give out your Internet password. If the site asks you to create an account with a password, never use the same password you use for other accounts or sites. They may be used to access some of your other Internet information.
7. Be cautious if you are asked to supply personal information, such as your Social Security number or personal bank account information
8. Pay attention to the address of the merchant’s site, the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL ensures that you are dealing with the correct company.
9. Determine what the shipping times and guarantees will be to ensure your purchases will arrive in time for the holidays.
10. Print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for you records. This information could be useful if you need to contact the business again.
11. Know your rights. The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop in cyberspace. Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its advertisement, online or offline. If no time is promised, the company should ship your order within 30 days after receiving it, or give you an “option notice.”