Easy And Safe Online Shopping

Easy and safe online shopping. How to enjoy the speed, savings and ease of Internet shopping and keep your money and your credit rating safe.

The thefts of online credit card databases by hackers have caused many people to become skittish about online shopping. Being careful is reasonable, but avoiding online shopping altogether is not necessary. If you follow these tips, online shopping can actually be safer than giving your credit card to a waiter in a restaurant.

The first and most important thing is to use a secure browser. This is the software you use to navigate the Internet. Your browser should comply with industry security standards, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or SET, Secure Electronic Transaction. These scramble the information you send over the Internet, ensuring the security of your transaction. Most computers come with a browser already installed. You also can download some browsers for free over the Internet.

Always shop at sights you are familiar with. Anyone can set up shop online. You can learn about a merchant by reading its guarantees, warranties and return and refund information. You can also have them send you a catalog or brochure to get a better idea of their merchandise and services. Review the web sites security policies. Look for symbols like a lock or key that appear at the bottom of your browser, a URL that begins with https:// and the words "Secure Socket Layer" (SSL), These mean that no one but you and the merchant can view your payment information. When your personal information is transmitted it will be scrambled using highly sophisticated encryption software. Also shop at sites that are members of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While this does not guarantee the safety of a site, they do comprehensively review the site before approving their membership.

Some merchants ask you to create a personal account that requires a password to enter an order. Avoid using a telephone number, birth date, or a your Social Security number. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols, change your passwords often and never give it to anyone. Most importantly never use the same password on more than one site. If someone hacks into one site, they may be able to gain access to others randomly if you use the same password repeatedly.

Most companies give you a choice on how your personal information is used. These companies allow you to decline having personal information used or shared with other companies. Look for this as part of the company's privacy policy. If you can't find a policy, send an email to the merchant to ask about its policy and request that it be posted on the site. Unless you are sure of how it will be used, don't disclose personal information. This includes your address, telephone number, Social Security number and e-mail address.

If you pay by credit card your purchase will be covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, consumers have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor is investigating them. In the case of unauthorized use of a consumer's credit card, consumers are generally held liable only for the first $50 in charges. Many sites are so confident with their security measures that they will personally refund this amount to you if your card is stolen from their site. Some cards may also provide additional warranty or purchase protection benefits. Even safer is to keep one credit card for online purchases only. This will allow you to keep careful track of transactions. If you feel uncomfortable entering credit card information online, look for merchants that will also accept payment by phone, fax or mail. Never, ever send payment information by e-mail. There is no way to secure this and hackers can read it very easily.

Be sure to print a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records. Also, the federal Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule covers orders made on the Internet. This means that unless stated otherwise, merchandise must be delivered within 30 days, and if there are delays, the company must notify you.

If you follow these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the speed, savings and ease of Internet shopping without endangering your credit rating.

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