Doing your shopping online has a lot of perks — no fighting for parking, shuffling through crowds, and no long lines.
But it also has its risks. With more than two-thirds of customers regularly shopping online, it is more important than ever to be a savvy shopper.
The holiday season is upon us with are only about six weeks left to shop.
Here are eight tips for doing your shopping online throughout the year and especially the holidays:
1. Use a credit card
This is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your purchase while shopping online. Your credit card offers additional protection that your debit card typically won’t.
If you’re making a big purchase, use your credit card so that you can dispute the charge with your financial institution in case something goes wrong — such as if the business delivers the wrong product, or never delivers at all.
2. Be wary of buying on social media
We’re not saying you can’t, but use extreme caution.
Consider things such as how responsive the business is to your calls or emails, if they have any reviews anywhere else online — other than social media — and the method of payment.
Never wire transfer money to someone you don’t know, and if they ask you to pay with a gift card or other loadable card, run for the hills.
3. Know how to spot a fake website
It’s all too easy for internet criminals to set up shop during the holiday season. They make a fancy website, advertise big-box items at a heavily discounted price, take a few payments and are never heard from again.
Here are a few red flags that a website might be a scam:
• Spelling or grammatical errors
• Distorted or pixilated images
• Dead links
• The website begins with ‘http’ instead of ‘https’ — if there’s no ‘S’ it’s not secure.
4. Order in advance for customized or handmade products
If you’re ordering something that’s customized, or handmade for a friend or loved one, order in advance to be sure it’s here in time for the holidays. And to avoid those crazy rush fees.
5. Consider having your orders delivered to your office, or pick them up
Doing your shopping online can be a great convenience. However, it also means expensive presents might be left at your doorstep while you’re at work — an easy target for local thieves.
Consider having your online orders delivered to your office, or pick them up from your local UPS, FedEx or post office.
6. Shop with confidence, and research before you buy
Having a plan is the key to your shopping success during the holidays. Find out which websites have the best sales ahead of time.
Do a price comparison, and research both the product and the business itself.
7. Read the fine print
A lot of sales during the holidays have strict exclusions, limits, restocking fees or no-return policies.
Be sure to read the fine print before you buy, and call the company if you have questions.
8. Keep track of receipts
Even when buying online, it’s important to keep your receipts — especially if they include shipping information.
If you’re shopping for a loved one, be sure to ask for a gift receipt, and keep the original. Be sure to read those refund and exchange policies.
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Always remember to visit bbb.org to check a company’s rating and reviews.
If a dispute arises with a company that you cannot resolve, please contact BBB for assistance.
• Barbara Carson is dispute resolution specialist-auto line coordinator for the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Iowa, the Quad Cities and Siouxland region.