5 On Your Side

Shopping Online? 8 Fraud Tips To Protect You

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Millions of people will skip the mall and do their holiday shopping online, but with fears about fraud, how do you make sure you don't become a victim of a scam?
  • Research unfamiliar retailers before buying online.TheBetter Business Bureauprovides information on over 2 million organizations. Or do online research at reputable Web sites that highlight possible scam artists, such as Rip-Off Report.com. Never buy anything from a company or person who sends unsolicited e-mail.The safest places to shop online are Web sites that have "brick and mortar" locations as well, such as department stores and retail stores.
  • Make sure the Web site is secure before you pay.One way to do so is to check the Web site address, or URL, in your Web browser's address bar. Once you get to a payment page where you enter in your personal information and/or credit card information, the address should change from "http" to "shttp" or "https," indicating the Web site is secure.Also. look for a symbol such as a lock, which can most often be found in the bottom part of the Web browser window. The symbol indicates a Web site is secure.
  • Protect personal information.Legitimate companies do not ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Scammers can create those windows even when you are on a legitimate site. Install pop-up blocking software to help avoid this type of scam.
  • Double-check your purchase details.These include cost, shipping charges, delivery time, cancellation and return policies, as well as the seller's privacy policy.
  • Always pay with a credit card.Charges can be disputed with credit cards. With a debit card or money order, the money is likely gone if there is a problem. Plus, if someone tries to use a credit card without your authorization, you are protected.
  • Keep your confirmation number.Once orders are complete, most sellers give a confirmation or order number. Print the confirmation page or e-mail that you get from the company in case you need it later.
  • Contact the seller if there is a problem.Check the company's Web site for a customer service page, "contact us" link, e-mail address, or phone number to get your concerns addressed or questions answered.
  • Know your rights.Federal law requires mail, phone or online orders shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no date was specified. If orders are not shipped by that time, you can cancel and demand a refund. You also have the right to return anything that does not work or is not what was advertised. Otherwise, you have to follow the company's cancellation and return policies.

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