How Do I Avoid Being Cheated While Shopping Online?

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) digital division, Shop.org, is forecasting 2012 online holiday sales will increase 12 percent to almost $96 billion. This represents a substantial increase and there will be more scammers out there trying to take advantage of this.  There are many reputable companies on the internet, but there are also as many companies that aren’t.  Before you purchase online, you should research an unfamiliar company, comparison shop, be aware o delivery costs and guarantees, review the refund policy, and pay by credit card.

Research an unfamiliar company

Make sure the company exists by doing research on the company, Google the name and contact the Better Business Bureau. Is this a secure site?  Does the URL begin with https?  The “s” at the end means it is a secure site. There should be a gold lock icon on the right corner of the address bar; click on it and check for the security certification of the site.

Comparison shop

Compare product features and price. There are websites that let you compare both features and prices. Read the product description carefully and make sure the item is what you want.   At least double check size, color, material, features, and Item number prior to ordering.

Delivery costs and guarantee

Check for sites offering free shipping or at least reasonable pricing.  Will standard shipping make it to the destination on time?   Is there a guarantee to get to the destination by a certain date?

Review the refund policy

Can you return the merchandise for a full refund or is there a stocking fee? Do you have to pay for shipping to return it?

Use your credit card for payment

It is best to pay by credit card, because you have more protection than with debit cards. If the merchandise is defective or not delivered, you can dispute the transaction and it will be removed from your account until it is resolved.  If you card is lost or stolen, you are responsible for $50 per card and most card issuers waive that fee.

Also, read >  A Higher Credit Limit? Yes, Please!

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.