Educational Consumer Tips

Internet Shopping Tips

Author: Better Business Bureau

What Cybershoppers Need To Know

If you surf the Internet, then you may be familiar with the terms "digital stores" and "online malls." The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offer shoppers the following tips to ensure that your online shopping experience is a satisfying one.

If you're interested in trying a new merchant, one with whom you are not familiar, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so that you can check on its reliability with outside organizations, like the BBB and other consumer agencies.

Determine the company's refund and return policies before you place an order.

Never give out your Internet password. When creating a password, avoid using established numbers, such as your house number, birth date, or your telephone or Social Security numbers. If the site asks you to create an account with a password, never use the same password you use for other accounts or sites.

Be cautious if you're asked to supply personal information, such as your Social Security number or personal bank account information, to conduct a transaction. Personal information is rarely necessary and should raise a red flag.

Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau. For the phone or address of the BBB nearest to the location of the business, visit the BBB's web site at

Pay attention to the "address" of the site, its Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL ensures that you are dealing with the right company. It's a good idea to print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records.

Know your rights. The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop online. Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its ads. If no time is promised, the company should ship your order within 30 days after receiving it, or give you an "option notice."

If you decide to pay by credit card or charge card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. If the site is not secure with a privacy padlock or key or you're just not comfortable entering your credit or charge card account number online, call it in to the company's 800 number or fax it.