Savvy shopping required online


Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
NEW YORK - Online shopping is one of the best perks of the Internet. You don't have to deal with crowded parking lots and stores, you can compare prices from different retailers quickly and easily, and you can do it in your pajamas at 3 a.m. if you prefer.
But always be careful with your money on the Web. Here are some tips to make your online shopping experience smooth and safe:
Always use a secure Web site. Look for the padlock symbol in the bottom right corner of your Web browser, and make sure the address begins with https, not http.
Make sure you're dealing with reputable e-commerce sites that haven't just set up shop today only to close down tomorrow. You can check if any complaints have been filed against the business with the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/) or the National Association of Attorney Generals (http://www.naag.org/). If the company is a member of Better Business Bureau Online (http://www.bbbonline.org/), then chances are you're safe.
Debit cards are convenient for "real-life" shopping, but don't use them on the Web. Debit cards don't offer the protection of the Fair Credit Billing Act, which covers credit-card users. If someone else uses your credit card, you're usually only held liable for $50 of the charges. If your debit card is stolen, the money is gone.
Know the online retailer's return policy. If the company doesn't offer returns, consider taking your business somewhere else.
Does a price seem too good to be true? Be careful - it might be a bait and switch.
Create a secure password and don't use the same one with different sites. A secure password has more than seven characters, mixes numbers and letters, and uses combinations of letters that can't be found in the dictionary.
If you're still concerned about security, do your comparisons and browsing online, but place your order over the phone.

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