Tips And Treats
Secure Online Shopping Tips
Shopping Online is a Mystery as You are not sure who you are dealing with and how reliable your supplier is...
Due to a few bad apples the convenience of online shopping has come under the clout. Here you can find great tips as to how you can check if the supplier is genuine and how best you can shop Online without the fear of being a victim of Online Fraud.
Last Updated - 3rd Octoberr 2005
Secure your transaction
Secure Internet Connections
How do you tell if the Internet connections are secure?
Many web sites use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to encrypt the credit card information that you send over the Internet. These sites usually inform you they are using this technology. Or, check if the web address on the page that asks for your credit card information begins with "https:" instead of "http:"; if so, this technology is in place.
A different security technology, which works on different principles, is Secure Electronic Transaction, or SET, technology. SET or SSL technology are designed to make your connection secure.
Be sure to open up a new web browser whenever you access your online bank or payment account. Never click a link in an e-mail or from another website that redirects you to an unsecure site, and give them your social security number, bank account number, etc. Whenever you access a secure site on the Internet, the URL usually starts with https://.
Other ways to tell whether a web site uses security software:
Your browser displays the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen (Netscape Navigator; - versions 4.0 and higher);
You see the icon of an unbroken key at the bottom of the screen (earlier versions of Netscape Navigator);
You see the icon of a lock on the status bar (Microsoft Internet Explorer®).
Would you rather give your credit card information over the phone?
Many web merchants allow you to order online and give your credit card information over the phone. If youre more comfortable with this option, make a note of the phone number, company, the date and time of your call, and the name of the person who recorded your credit card number.
You should only give your password and credit card number in a secure connection on a web site, not in ordinary e-mail. "Theft of identity," in which someone gets access to your bank account or gets credit cards or loans in your name, is a growing problem, and you should carefully guard personal information that might allow a thief to impersonate you.
Do you use different passwords?
If you use a password to log on to your network or computer, use a different password for orders. Some web sites may require you to create a password for future orders. You may want to create a special password for particularly sensitive sites, such as your home banking site.
How did you choose your password?
The best passwords are not your address, birth date, phone number, or recognizable words. Choose a string of at least five letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. One easy way to create a memorable password is to take the first letter of each word in an expression or song lyric, and add some numbers and punctuation marks. For example, "tmottobg!5" is derived in part from "Take Me Out To The Old Ball Game."
How should you record your password?
Dont write down any password near your computer where someone could see it. If you do record it somewhere, reverse the order of the characters or transpose some letters or numbers. That way, someone finding it wont have discovered your true password.
Who wants to know your password or other identifying information?
Be very careful about responding to an e-mail, phone call, fax, or letter from anyone who asks for your password(s), social security number, birth date, bank account, credit card number, mothers maiden name, or other personal information. To verify that the person contacting you really does work for the seller, call and request to speak to that person directly. Except for your password and credit card number, you should never have to give any other information to place an order online.
And you should only give your password and credit card number in a secure connection on a web site, not in ordinary e-mail. "Theft of identity," in which someone gets access to your bank account or gets credit cards or loans in your name, is a growing problem, and you should carefully guard personal information that might allow a thief to impersonate you.
Secure the way you pay
Safest Way to Pay
Why is paying by credit card safer than paying by check, cash, or debit card?
If you have an unauthorized charge on your credit card, under federal law your liability is limited to $50. In fact, some credit card issuers and web site operators say that under certain circumstances they will even pay this amount for you.
Can paying by credit card help in a dispute?
You may be able to dispute the sellers charges if the goods dont arrive or if you arent satisfied with them and return them. However, under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, you can only effectively dispute charges billed to your credit card (but that you have not yet paid) if ALL of the following are true:
- You have made a good faith attempt to resolve the dispute with the seller;
- The dispute involves the amount of $50 or more; and
- The dispute arose within the state of your credit card billing address, or within 100 miles of your address; AND
- The seller of the goods (for example, a department store) has not issued the credit card that you used to pay.
- If the seller of the goods has issued the credit card you used to pay, as when you use a department store credit card, you may be able to dispute the seller's charges as long as you have first made a good faith attempt to resolve the dispute. The $50, 100-mile requirements do not apply where the seller and card issuer are the same company.
- Be aware that if you buy goods or services from a seller through a web site, there may be some legal uncertainty about where a dispute arose.
What are other reasons to pay by credit card?
- You may save money by using a credit card if you pay it off in full when the bill arrives. Payments made by credit card allow you to keep the payment amount in your bank account, earning interest, until your credit card bill for those payments comes due.
- In addition, some credit card issuers grant you extended warranties or other advantages for purchases made with the card.
Credit Card Account Protection
How can you protect against unauthorized use of your credit card account number?
Carefully and promptly check your credit card statements when they arrive. If you identify any irregularities, you should immediately bring these to the attention of the issuer of the credit card by telephone and in writing.
Do you need a separate credit card?
Consider dedicating a single credit card for online purchases. It will be easier for you to review your records. Also, should the security of this number be compromised, youll still be able to use your other credit cards.
Other Payment Options
Do other payment options offer as much protection as a credit card?
When it comes to other types of payment options such as debit cards, money orders, cashiers checks, certified checks, tellers checks, and cash on delivery (C.O.D.), youll find the level of protection isnt as high as with credit cards. Although there are pros and cons to these other payment options, using a credit card is still your best bet for safety.
Inform yourself about the seller.
The Seller - Do you know the sellers reputation?
You might feel safer dealing with companies you already know and trust. If youre not familiar with the name and reputation of a companyand especially if a seller has sent you an unsolicited e-mail message ("spam")find out more before you buy. With a click you can check a companys reputation by contacting the Better Bussines Bureau or the Office of the State Attorney General in your state or the state where the seller is located which can be accessed through the National Association of Attorneys General.
The Individual - Do you know the individual's reputation?
Some online auction sites offer "feedback" areas where customers discuss their experiences with a particular person
The Address - Will the seller be at the same web address tomorrow?
With a physical store or a catalog, you know where to turn to if you run into problems. But in cyberspace, all you may have is a web address. Look on the site for a street address and phone number. (Be wary if the sellers only contact information is a post office box.)
International Buying - Are you buying from someone located outside the U.S.?
Since its the World Wide Web, sellers might well be located in other countries. If so, you might not have the same legal rights, or be able to enforce your rights as easily, as when the seller is located in the United States.
Company Experience - Does it matter if the seller has experience selling the product?
The law generally gives you more protection when you buy an item from a seller who regularly sells those items.
Authorized Seller - Is the company an authorized seller?
You may get better warranty service if you buy from an authorized seller. How do you know whos authorized? You can call the manufacturer of the product youre interested in, or visit the manufacturers web site to check if the operator of the site has been authorized to sell the manufacturer's product.
Electronic Agent - Shopping for the lowest price?
Some web sites offer an "electronic agent" to identify the sites that charge the lowest price for a specified product. Be aware that some sellers have taken technological steps to block these "agents" from gathering pricing data. In addition, "agent" sites might not take shipping costs or return/refund policies into account when comparing the prices.
Still Selling - Is the seller still in business?
You might wish to telephone or send an e-mail to be sure the seller is still in operation, particularly if the web sites material appears to be old or out of date.
Check what you are buying.
Updates - Have you checked for updates?
If you frequently access a web page, you may be seeing outdated pricing or old inventory information. The reason: Some Internet browsers, that is, a program such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer®, save frequently-accessed pages. Check whether the seller indicates when the information was last updated. To insure youre seeing the latest version, use your browsers "reload" and "refresh" capabilities available under the "View" menu to update the page youre viewing.
The Product - What are you buying?
Be aware that some claims are just someones opinion and the consumer has no legal claim if it is not true. For example, if the seller claims: "This is the best book ever written on this topic," that is merely an opinion. However, you may have a legal case if an item that you buy does not conform to the sellers specific description. For example, if the sellers e-mail or web page states that the book is 1,000 pages long and published last year, you may have a legal claim if the book that's delivered is half that long and ten years old.
Double Check The Price - Does the price of the product seem reasonable to you?
Whether the product is being sold as new or used, be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true. Also, consider carefully whether you may be paying too much for an item, particularly if youre bidding through an auction site. You may want to comparison-shop, online or offline, before you buy.
Authenticity - How do you know your product is authentic?
Is the seller offering a real brand-name item, or just a replica? Review the site for a guarantee of the products authenticity.
Check Your Order - Have you checked the item number and amount?
After typing in your order, double check the online form. Its easy to order "22" rather than "2" of an item if your finger stays on the keyboard a little too long.
Many electronic order forms will tell you the total price of your order before you buy. Pay attention to that total price so you can crosscheck the items and quantity. Also, check any confirmation e-mail that you receive from the seller. If it doesnt agree with what you wanted, immediately notify the seller by e-mail or telephone.
Read the legal terms before you buy.
Terms - Where do you find the terms?
Different web sites have different ways of displaying legal terms; some ways are more conspicuous than others. You might find a link on the home page or order page to something like "Legal Terms" or "Disclaimers," or you might find that the "(c) 1999" at the bottom of a home page is such a link.
Other sites might display legal terms on a "click-wrap" screen, which requires you to mouse-click on a button that says "OK" or "I agree" to the terms displayed on that screen. Some courts have held that clicking will indicate that you agree to the terms, while other courts have held that the click doesnt create agreement to the terms. In any case, if you aren't comfortable with the terms displayed, you should shop elsewhere.
Shipping, Returns and Refunds - What if you dont see the sellers return and refund policies?
You might want to ask the seller, through an e-mail or telephone call, to indicate where these policies are on the site or to provide them to you in writing.
You may want to specifically ask:
- Does the seller charge a flat shipping fee (for example: $5 per order), a per-item fee(such as $1 per book), or some combination of these?
- Can you return an online ordered item to one of the sellers retail outlets for cash or credit?
- Can you return a product if you've already opened it?
- Will the seller deduct a "restocking fee" from your refund?
- Will the company charge for a second shipment if it is shipping part of your order now and part later?
- When will the seller charge your account: only when each item ships, or at some time before that?
Warranties - Is there a written warranty?
If theres a written warranty, it must be made available to you before you buy the item. When you review the warranty, look for the same information buying online as you would buying from a store or catalog:
What does it cover and how long does it last?
Whom do you have to contact for repair, refund, or replacement under a warranty?
Is the seller limiting its liability if the item doesnt work or causes damage?
Under federal law, the seller must tell you whether the written warranty is "full" or "limited" if the consumer product costs more than $10.
A "full" warranty generally means that youre entitled to free repair of the product during the warranty period, and do not have to pay shipping, removal, or re-installation costs. If the seller cannot fix the product after a reasonable number of attempts, youre entitled to a free replacement or full refund.
Any lesser warranty is "limited." As youd expect, there are more limited warranties than full ones. Nonetheless, they often provide substantial protection and value to a consumer.
If a product is sold "as is" or "with its faults" that means the seller gives no warranty. If the seller "disclaims the implied warranty of merchantability," that means the seller does not promise that the goods are fit for ordinary use. In some instances, the law provides that you must be given this warranty of fitness for ordinary use. Then a disclaimer isn't effective. A lawyer could advise you on when this is so.
Liability - Are there limitations of liability on the warranty agreement?
The seller might say that if something goes wrong with the item you purchased, the seller is liable only for a fixed amount of money. Or, the seller is only required to repair or replace the item. Even if you have suffered other damagessay you lost thousands of dollars in business because your computer crashedyoud only collect for the value of the product or the cost of repair.
Arbitration or Mediation - Arbitrate or mediate?
Check the agreement to see if youre able to go to court to sue. Some agreements say that you have to go to arbitration (have a third party decide the case) and give up your right to ever go to court. Or the agreement could specify that you must attempt to mediate any disagreement (through a third party, who will attempt to settle the case) before you can take your claim into court.
Suing - Where can you sue?
The seller may try to specify that you can only sue in a certain state. If its not your home state, you might have to travel to the sellers state if you want to sue.
Under whose law will you sue?
Not only can the seller try to specify which states courts will hear your case, but also which states laws apply. The terms might not only require you to sue in Texas courts, but also require the Texas courts to apply New Jersey law. This could result in courts far from home applying the law of a state that might be particularly tough on cases like yours.
Time Limit - Is there a time limit on lawsuits?
In most states, you have at most four years to sue if you think the seller has violated the warranty. Wait longer, and youve lost your right to sue. Often, youll find that the seller has cut the time to as little as one year. But take note that the seller cant limit the statute of limitations to less than one year. Find out the statute of limitations (time limit) on lawsuits by checking the sellers legal terms posted on its web site or see if a time has been specified in its correspondence with you.
Damaged Merchandise - What happens if your purchase is damaged or missing a piece?
To preserve your legal rights, inspect your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it. Contact the seller as soon as possible if you discover a problem with it. Tell the seller in writing about any problem that you are concerned with, ask for a repair or refund and keep a copy of your correspondence.
Record your purchase.
Keep Records - What documents should you keep when purchasing online?
We suggest you retain the following records when shopping online:
- A printout of the web pages indicating the sellers name, postal address, and telephone number;
- A printout of the web pages describing the item(s) that you ordered;
- A printout of the web pages or pop-up screens that provide the sellers legal terms;
- Printouts of any e-mail messages (for example, confirmation messages) that you send to or receive from the seller. This includes:
- Those that might show that the seller indicated that the product would be suitable for the specific purpose for which you needed it,
- Those in which you notify the seller of problems with the merchandise that you have received; and
- Those that would show your good faith attempt to resolve with the merchant a charge that you do not feel should have been made to your credit card.
- Notes or e-mail confirmations of any telephone conversations that you have with the seller.
If the current date does not appear on these printouts, you should add it in writing.
Where to complaint?
Do you know to whom to complain or contact if you are not satisfied or have a question?
Check the site for a customer service page, "contact us" link, e-mail address, or phone number to get your complaint addressed or questions answered. If you have a complaint, ask for what you think is fair even if its more than the legal terms stated. A merchant isnt forbidden from doing more than required to make the customer happy. If you still are not satisfied with the answers or action taken, contact the Better Business Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Complaint Form, or the Office of the State Attorney General in your state or the state where the seller is located which can be accessed through the National Association of Attorneys General.
Disclaimer: The Secure Online Shopping Tips / Information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Tips And Treats . com and/or its partners.
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