’Tis the season for online shopping — more consumers than ever are clicking to buy this year, which can be safe as long as you take precautions.
Mansfield police recently posted a graphic on its Facebook page with tips for avoiding trouble, including a big one: “Don’t give unnecessary info. Nobody needs your Social Security number.”
The Federal Trade Commission sees a spike during the holiday season in complaints about online retailers that don’t deliver goods as advertised, or don’t deliver them at all.
For a better chance of getting through the holidays without issues, heed these tips from the commission:
- Use search engines and the retailer’s website to confirm its reputation. According to the FTC, if a physical address and a phone number, or any other way to get in touch with the company aren’t visible, consider it a red flag.
- Be sure to read the fine print of the product details. Words like “refurbished” or “vintage” may indicate the product is in poor condition. Reading reviews left by other buyers or experts of the product will also help verify quality.
- Before purchasing, determine the retailer’s return policy and shipping timeline. The FTC requires sellers to ship the item by the date promised, or within 30 days of the order date. Also, pay attention to shipping costs, and refund policies.
- The FTC recommends using a credit card for all online purchases, not a debit card. A credit card transaction is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. If a charge is disputed by the credit card holder, the payment can be temporarily withheld while the creditor investigates. If the investigation shows the credit card is used without the permission of the card holder, the card holder’s liability is limited to $50 in charges, and some companies won’t make the card holder liable for any of the charges.
- After purchase, the buyer should save records of the purchase, product description and order confirmation. From there, the buyer should keep an eye on credit card statements to watch for any possible unauthorized charges, according to the FTC.
- Avoid emailing any personal financial information such as credit card, checking or Social Security numbers. If the retailer’s website requests this type of information via pop-up, do not click any link provided or otherwise give the information.
- Before entering any credit card information, the buyer should check the website address for “https” at the start of the address, according to the Mansfield Police Department. The “s” stands for “secure” so the buyer can ensure the information being entered is encrypted before being submitted, according to the FTC.
- The Attorney General of Texas cautions against clicking on ads, even on trusted websites. Just because an ad is on the website doesn’t mean the company endorses the advertiser.
- If a problem does arise during the transaction, contact the seller. If problems persist, the FTC fields complaints at www.ftc.gov/complaint.