With just a click of the mouse, you can buy nearly any product online – from cars and diamond jewelry to medicine and groceries.
Yet online shopping requires the same level of precaution you use when you’re out shopping in person.
Take these steps to help avoid being cheated by clever scam artists:
Shop at Secure Web Sites
The key here is a Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, which uses encryption technology to scramble the information you send to an online merchant. Look for an “s” displayed after “http” in the address bar of your browser. This https:// indicates that a Web site is secure. Note that you may not see the “s” until you actually move to the merchant’s order page.
Another way to determine if you are on a secure site is to look for a closed padlock or an unbroken key symbol at the bottom of your screen.
Understand Privacy and Security Policies
Shop from Home
Public computers and networks expose your shopping to plenty of online dangers – including the use of key logger software that captures your login information and credit card number. Your credit card information can even be stolen when you use your personal laptop on a public wireless network.
Use a Credit Card
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card. You are not held liable for fraudulent charges that are promptly reported, and if you have a dispute with a merchant over a charge, you have the right to dispute that charge and withhold payment on it during a creditor investigation. Make sure you understand the difference between a credit card and a debit card or ATM card, which are not protected by federal law to the same extent as credit cards.
Check Your Statements
In addition to printing or saving copies of your orders, check your credit card statement carefully after making purchases on the Internet. Identity thieves sometimes make a low-dollar “test charge” to see if the card works – and then strike weeks or months down the road. Some online shoppers dedicate one credit card solely for online shopping to make it easier to detect fraudulent charges.