2009-12-03 / Features

Tips For Safe Online Holiday Shopping

With the economy making us concerned about how, when and where we spend our money this holiday season, the American Bar Association (ABA) has some tips for shopping online.

The amount of online shopping has risen dramatically over the past decade. Online shopping this holiday season will continue the year-to-year growth that it has seen over recent years, growing from 37.6 percent of Americans shopping online in 2006 to 47.2 percent this year, according to research by pricegrabber. com.

The following tips come from the ABA www.SafeShopping.org Web site, which was developed by its business law section to help consumers safeguard their money and identity while shopping online:

1. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the Web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.

Be knowledgeable about Web-based auctions. Take special care to familiarize yourself not only with the rules and policies of the auction site itself, but with the legal terms (warranties, refund policy, etc.) of the seller's items that you wish to bid on.

2. Double check pricing. Be suspicious of prices that seem too good to be true. Also consider carefully whether you may be paying too much for an item, particularly if you’re bidding through an auction site. You may want to comparison shop, online or offline, before you buy. Make sure there are no extra shipping or handling costs.

3. Find and carefully read the privacy policy to find out what information the seller is gathering from you, how the information will be used, and how you can stop the process. If a site does not have a privacy policy posted, you may not want to do business with it.

4. Review the return, refund and shipping and handling policies as well as the other legal terms. If you can’t find them, ask the seller through an e-mail or telephone call to indicate where they are on the site or to provide them to you in writing.

5. Make sure the Internet connection is secure. Before you give your payment information, check for indicators that security software is in place. Check in the lower right corner of your computer screen to make sure your security system icon appears. If not, contact the company.

6. Use the safest way to pay on the Internet. Pay for your order using a credit card. Print the terms. You should print out and date a copy of terms, conditions, warranties, item description, company information, even confirming e-mails, and save them with your records of your purchase.

7. Ensure the safe delivery of your item. If you’re concerned you may not be home when your package is delivered and that someone may take it if it is left on the doorstep, ask whether you can specify that the shipper must receive a signature before leaving the package. Or, it may be safer to have the package delivered to your office.

8. Inspect your purchase. Look at your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it. Contact the seller as soon as possible if you discover a problem with it. Tell the seller in writing about any problems you have, ask for a repair or refund, and keep a copy of your correspondence.

These tips and other suggestions are found on the ABA’s safe shopping Web site, www.SafeShopping.org.

Wise credit card use

A related ABA Web site – www.SafeBorrowing.com – looks at ways to use your credit card wisely, including looking at your statement to make sure you are responsible for the charges that appear there. It outlines the action to take if there is a charge you don’t recognize.

The safe borrowing site also provides information on how and when to pay your credit card bill and what to do when your credit card company changes its terms.

Whether at the holidays or at other times of the year, advice from these two ABA Web sites can help you make good decisions on credit and online shopping.

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