It is the big shopping time of the year in store and online. Many people are turning to online shopping with free shipping and great deals so they no longer have to fight the crowds and long lines. They can find everything in one place with just the click of a button. Below are tips from Boca Grove Director of Security Jim Weaver and the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid internet fraud.
Internet Tips to Avoid Fraud:
- Know who you are doing business with. Make sure you know where the business is physically located and that the company is trustworthy. By shopping online you are now opening yourself up to shopping anywhere in the world, down the street, across the country, even on the other side of the globe. Resolving a discrepancy of any sort with a company foreign to you can end up being more complicated than dealing with a well-known company that is more local.
- Understand the offer. Make sure you read all the small print and know all the details. If you have questions, ask. A legitimate company will be willing to provide answers, a fraudulent one won’t. Make sure you know what is exactly being sold, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy and the terms of any guarantees. The federal telephone and mail order rule, which covers online sales, requires goods or services to be delivered by the promised time, or if there is no time listed, within 30 days. Make sure to print out all the information so that you have documentation if you need it.
- Check out the company’s track record. Check with the state or local consumer protection agency if the company you are shopping with is unknown to make sure it is licensed or registered if need be. Check with consumer agencies or the Better Business Bureau about the company’s complaint record. Just keep in mind that a lack of a complaint record does not necessarily make a company legitimate.
- Take your time to decide. Even if there is a time limit for a special offer, with companies that are not legitimate they are a danger sign for fraud.
- Be aware that there are differences between private sales and sales by a business. All kinds of goods and services are sold or traded by individuals through unsolicited e-mails, newsgroup postings, chat room discussions, web auctions and online classified advertisements. In most cases people are honest, however, in the cases where they are not your legal rights against the individual seller may not be the same as they are with a business, and you could have problems pursuing your complaint if the merchandise is misrepresented, defective or never delivered.
- You could be better off paying by credit card than with a check, cash or money order, as long as you know the person or company is legit. When you use your credit card and there is a problem, you can notify your credit card company that you are disputing the charge, and you don’t have to pay it while your dispute is being investigated. It is easier to resolve a problem if you haven’t already paid. Also, unless you are purchasing through a secured site (if it is secure, it says so on the website), it may be safer to provide your payment information by phone or mail versus online.
- Don’t judge reliability by how well done the website is designed. Anyone can create, register and promote a website; it’s relatively easy and inexpensive. There is no guarantee either that the site has been screened or approved by anyone.
Take advantage of those great online sales this holiday season, just make sure you are purchasing from reliable companies or individuals. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Happy, smart shopping to all, and to all a good night.