With a simple click of the mouse, shoppers can buy nearly anything online - from groceries to cars, from clothes to medications.
Consumers expect merchants to not only make their products available on the web, but to make payments a simple and secure process. However, things can go wrong as in the real world. Sometimes it is simply a case of a computer glitch or poor customer service. Other times, shoppers are cheated by clever scam artists.
Use encryption and secure connections
Secure sites use encryption technology to transfer information from your computer to the online merchant's computer. Encryption scrambles the information you send, such as your credit card number, in order to prevent computer hackers from obtaining it on the way.
A secure site can be detected in several ways. On payment page, if you look at the top of your screen where the web site address is displayed, you should see https://. The "s" that is displayed after "http" indicates that the site is secure. But transmitting your data over secure channels is of little value to you if the merchant stores the data unscrambled. So, you should try to find out if the merchant stores the data in encrypted form.
Be sure to read the merchant's privacy and security policies to learn how it safeguards your personal data on its computers.
Do business with companies you already know
If you decide to buy something from an unknown company, start out with an inexpensive order to learn if the company is trustworthy.
Every reliable online web site offers information about how it processes your order. You can find out if the merchant intends to share your information with a third party or affiliate company.
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card
If something goes wrong, you are protected under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you can withhold payments during a creditor investigation. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorization, you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge.
Make sure your credit card is a true credit card and not a debit card or a check card.
Keep Your Password Private
Never reveal your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your birthdate, mother's name, or numbers from your driver's license or social security number. Do not reuse the same password for other web sites. The best password has at least eight characters including numbers and letters.
Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails
Did you ever get an e-mail message asking you to click on a web link and update your account information? Never, ever do that! This is one of the biggest online scams around. Remember, legitimate businesses don’t ask for sensitive information via email. Don't respond to any request for financial information that comes to you in an email.
Keep Good Records
Be sure to print a copy of your order confirmation for your records and also save any email receipts. Keep any advertisements or materials that show a specific delivery time, or write the delivery time in your records if one was promised. Keep track of your purchases and if you don't receive them by the expected date, then contact the company to follow up on your order.