According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, as of 2011, global online transactions are currently estimated by industry analysts at $10 trillion annually. The chances are good that you either are or will be one of the people making a purchase online. Here are some tips to help insure that your online shopping experience is a safe and satisfying one:
Online Fraud Red Flags
- Physical Presence: If you are interested in trying a new merchant, one that you are not familiar with, ask the merchant for its physical location (address and phone number) so that you can check on its reliability with outside organizations like Bizrate, Shopping.com or the Better Business Bureau.
- Know Your Consumer Rights: The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop online. Under Federal Law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its ads. If no time is promised, the company should ship your order within 30 days after receiving it, or give you an "option notice". If you decide to pay by credit card or charge card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. If you are not comfortable entering your credit or charge card account number online, call it in to the company's toll-free phone number or fax it.
- Online Reliability Seal: Look on the website for a verification seal of a site’s security certificate. This will usually link you to certificate issuer’s website, which will display the status of the certificate, as well as the current date and time so you know the information is up-to-date and accurate. For instance, you can find seals on the footer of our site provided by Authorize.net and GoDaddy.com.
- Customer Satisfaction Policy: Determine the company's refund and return policies before you place an order. If an online company can't offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them. Be clear on the price, applicable taxes and any shipping and handling charges that may apply to your order. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. We strongly recommend reviewing our store policies and privacy policies before making a purchase with us.
- Keep a Paper Trail: Pay attention to the address of the site - its Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL insures that you are dealing with the right company. Print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records. It's also a good idea to print out the URL of the site from which you are ordering.
- Protect Your Passwords: Never give out your password. When creating a password, avoid using established numbers, such as your house number, birth date, or your telephone or Social Security numbers. If the site asks you to create an account with a password, never use the same password you use for other accounts or sites. A strong password consists of no less than 8 characters, and will contain at least one of each of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (@, #, $, %, etc).
- Guard Your Personal Information: Identity theft is an increasingly common problem for modern consumers. You leave a digital trail everywhere you go on the Internet, allowing sophisticated criminals to collect significant information about you, as well as your personal interests and buying habits. Be cautious if you're asked to supply personal information, such as your Social Security Number or personal bank account information, to conduct a transaction. Only provide your credit card information or Social Security Number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix https:// . . . in the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address box of your browser to be sure that a site you are using is secure. Note that we may require some personal information when a customer is not shipping an order to the United States and we cannot verify credit card information or addresses. In those cases we also offer to take PayPal as an alternate payment source.
The Internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers shopping that can be just as safe as stores or mail orders. Unless consumers learn to identify online fraud indicators, those who buy online can open themselves up to the same scams that are common with shopping offline.
Using widely available tools which can easily copy or recreate digital graphics, a computer-literate criminal can build a website that looks strikingly similar to that of a legitimate online business. This bogus website can lure unsuspecting consumers into various online scams. The following are ways you can avoid being deceived by a fraudulent website:
- Now or Never/First Come, First Served: Beware of pressure for an immediate response or frantic claims of limited availability. Any legitimate company will give you time to make a wise purchasing decision. Look on the web for a reliability seal from an online consumer protection group such as Bizrate, Shopping.com or other third party companies that can verify the company is legitimate.
- No Mail Please: If a seller requests payment in cash by a private courier, or by check or money order through an overnight delivery service: be very cautious. He or she could be trying to get around postal fraud laws.
- Free! (for a price): Don't trust an offer for free products or services that later asks you to send money or pay a fee upfront.
- Get Rich Quick Appeals: Con artists know exactly how to scam consumers who want to make big money quick with little work or effort. The explosion of e-commerce and internet-related businesses has made it easy for cyberspace crooks to con eager buyers into believing that hundreds of dollars invested in an internet business will instantly turn into thousands of dollars in profit overnight. The only person likely to make easy money in such schemes is the con artist.
- Presentation: Scam business advertisements, particularly those sent by e-mail, are often brimming with excessive CAPITAL LETTERS, dollar $ign$ and !!!exclamation points!!!. It's also not uncommon for these ads to include misspellings or grammatical errors. Con artists hope that a glitzy website or flashy e-mail ad will blind consumers into falling for a scam.
We hope that the provided information will help you to better understand the ways in which you can have a pleasant experience shopping online. Your privacy and safety are as important to us as they are to you.