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Ten Online Shopping Safety Tips

Get the tips you should use to protect yourself when shopping online.

By Visa USA and the Better Business Bureau

Watch today's "Call for Help" to find out how to keep your credit card information secure and find reputable retailers when you shop online. Visa USA and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offer these tips to keep you safe:

Shop with e-tailers you know, or research before you buy. A responsible online retailer will clearly post its physical address and telephone number on its website. Use that information to check the business's complaint record with the Better Business Bureau or local consumer protection agency. If a site displays a BBBOnLine Reliability seal, you can click on the seal to quickly check BBB information on the company and be assured the company will stand behind its service.

Use your payment card to shop online. If you decide to use your payment card to purchase goods and services online, your liability under federal law is limited to $50. Visa also offers Zero Liability protection for purchases made with a Visa card. Using your credit or debit card can also provide you with extra cardholder benefits. Check with your card issuer for protection details or other advantages.

Know the e-tailer's customer satisfaction policies and the terms of the sale. Before making a purchasing decision, consumers should look for information regarding shipping timeframe; return, refund, or exchange policies (including related fees, if any); product warranty/guarantee details; and information concerning the online store's commitment to resolve any disputes that might arise.

Understand the difference between buying from a business and buying from a private seller. It's now more common for individuals to sell goods via auctions and other sites on the Internet. Be aware that your legal rights against an individual may not be the same as against a business. While many private sellers are legitimate, your legal recourse may be different if you're not satisfied with the merchandise.

Be in a secure environment at point of purchase. Before providing your credit card or financial information, be certain you are using a secure browser that will encrypt the personal data you are about to transmit online. At the point of purchase, look for the prefix "https://" at the beginning of the e-tailer's Web address in the uniform resource locator (URL) box.

Investigate the e-tailer's "security system." Look for information about the online store's security policies that indicates if the e-tailer provides an industry-standard level of security for the storage of personal data.

Protect your password. Some online stores require you to register a user name and password before buying an item. Just as you keep your automated teller machine (ATM) code secret, keep your password secret from outside parties.

Exercise the right to protect your privacy. Shop at e-tailer sites that have posted privacy policies that reveal what personally identifiable information is collected about you and how it will be used, and offers you options about the use of your personal information. Look for signs that the site has been reviewed by trustworthy organizations, such as BBBOnLine, to ensure that the business has demonstrated compliance with credible online privacy principles. The only information reputable online stores typically require is your password, credit card number, and shipping information.

Keep a record of your transactions. Print out and save a record of all online transactions, including the retailer's URL (Internet address). That way, you'll have information at your fingertips in case questions arise about the order or terms of the sale.

Know your consumer rights. The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop in cyberspace. Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its advertisements and no more than 30 days after the order date.
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