Shopping Online Safely

8 tips for safely shopping online during the holiday season:
Internet ScamBusters #18

  1. Use common sense. This seems obvious, but people don’t always do it. Further, if you have a gut feeling that something isn’t legitimate, you’re probably right.
  2. If possible, pay by credit card rather than by check or money order. Here’s why: If you use your credit card to make a purchase and you encounter a problem — and the company won’t fix it — you can notify (in writing) the bank that issues your credit card that you are disputing the charge, and you don’t have to pay the charge while your dispute is being investigated. And, if the company doesn’t deliver the item or they are a scam, you’re in a much better position to get your money back.
  3. Don’t buy anything from companies that use bulk email solicitations. We recently heard from a colleague that she had purchased a lot of stuff on the Net, and had not even received about 60% of it! We were baffled. We, too, order a lot on the Net, and have *never* not received an item.Investigating further, we discovered that all of the items which she had not received were promoted using bulk email. Every item she ordered from a Web site was, in fact, delivered. Since we have a strict policy never to buy from any company that spams, we had never encountered this problem.Checking further, we discovered that other people who bought from companies that spam had similar experiences. So, this is another reason not to buy from companies which use bulk email — there is a high probability you won’t even receive the products you ordered!
  4. Check the company out. Only do business with companies that provide a physical address and a phone number. If you’re suspicious, trust your gut feelings.
  5. *Always* ask for references and check them carefully. A reputable company will be pleased to provide you with lots of references.
  6. Only do business with companies that offer a strong guarantee and/or warranty. Ask the company what will happen if you want to return the product or service. Most reputable companies offer strong guarantees and stand behind their products, especially online.
  7. Keep good records. Always print out a copy of any online products or services you purchase. Make sure you print out the Web page (including the Web address, URL), any emails with the email addresses, and any other relevant information, including the date and time that you saw the offer and made the purchase. Save this information in case you need it later.
  8. Be careful, but don’t be paranoid. After all, most businesses on the Web are legitimate. Shopping online can provide tremendous advantages — including the safety of not venturing out to shop! — so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Use good judgment, be careful, follow these tips, and you probably won’t have any problems.

Next month, we have a very interesting update on Internet malls and a new scam about online awards. Stay tuned…