Tips for Safe Online Shopping

November 01, 2017

Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Richmond, VA- While Cybersecurity Awareness Month has ended there is still plenty of time to talk about ways to stay safe online. With the holidays fast approaching BBB wants to make sure you are aware of red flags that point toward a less than reputable company.

“When shopping online it’s extremely important to be aware of the return policy. Not all businesses will have the same policy, and some will change the closer it gets to peak shopping season,” says Olivia Smith, Communications Manager for BBBCV. “Find the return policy on the company’s website and make sure there is working contact information for the company prior to completing a purchase online.”

An important online shopping trend to be aware of is monthly subscription based companies. These companies require a monthly membership fee to purchase their products. Make sure you are aware of these fees and understands how to cancel the service if you need to in the future. You should also be aware if the business allows a hold or skip to be placed on that month’s item in case there is nothing you want to purchase that month. A hold or a skip means the business will place a hold on charging your account if you do not see something you want to purchase that month. It is important to understand the fee structure of the company to make sure, if you need to hold that month’s charge, you do so in enough time.

Some companies will offer a free month’s trial and then charge you on a recurring basis if you do not cancel by the deadline. Read the entire fee structure agreement before completing the purchase. If you can’t find the return policy or a clear description of the fee structure on the company’s website this is a red flag and you should consider looking elsewhere for a similar product. 

It is also important to remember online advertisements are designed to be clicked and some will lead you to a third-party website that may not be secure. Do not follow links from unfamiliar websites.

With the holidays around the corner we will all be tempted by the convenience to shop online, but another great way to shop and support your local community is to participate in Small Business Saturday. You can look up a local business online at while learning more about Small Business Saturday and the upcoming shopping season.

Smith is the Communications Manager for BBB serving Central Virginia and can be reached at or 804-648-0030 for additional comment.

About BBB: BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education, and charity review.