Internet Access Services

Many companies offer connections to the Internet, help creating a Web site, and other Internet services. Some of these services are specifically geared to businesses that want to offer their own products or services online. Unfortunately, some companies take the money but never deliver on their promises.

  • Know who you’re dealing with. If the seller is unfamiliar, check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau. Some Web sites have feedback forums, which can provide useful information about other people’s experiences with particular sellers. Get the physical address and phone number in case there is a problem later.
  • Look for information about how complaints are handled. It can be difficult to resolve complaints, especially if the seller is located in another country. Look on the Web site for information about programs the company participates in that require it to meet standards for reliability and help to handle disputes.
  • Be aware that no complaints is no guarantee. Fraudulent operators open and close quickly, so the fact that no one has made a complaint yet doesn’t meant that the seller or charity is legitimate. You still need to look for other danger signs of fraud.
  • Get references. Find out if friends or colleagues have used the company’s services and whether they were satisfied with its performance. Businesses should ask for the names of other businesses with which they can check on the company’s track record.
  • Shop around. Compare prices and services from several different companies. Incredibly cheap prices may be an indication of fraud, or the seller may not be able to deliver on its promises for that price.
  • Don’t believe promises of huge profits online. Be wary of claims that the company will find you a prime location in an Internet “mall” or create banner ads for your business that will result in big profits.
  • Understand the offer. A legitimate seller will give you all the details about what the services include, how much they cost, when they will be provided, and the refund and cancellation policies.
  • Resist pressure. Legitimate companies will be happy to give you time to make a decision. It’s probably a scam if they demand that you act immediately or won’t take “No” for an answer.
  • Get all the terms of “free trial offers.” To avoid charges, you may have to notify the seller at the end of the free period that you want to cancel.
  • Be cautious about unsolicited emails. They are often fraudulent. If you are familiar with the company that sent you the email and you don’t want to receive further messages, send a reply asking to be removed from the email list. However, responding to unknown senders may simply verify that yours is a working email address and result in even more unwanted messages from strangers. The best approach may simply be to delete the email.
  • Beware of imposters. Someone might send you an email pretending to be connected with a business or create a Web site that looks just like that of a well-known company. If you’re not sure that you’re dealing with the real thing, find another way to contact the legitimate business and ask.
  • Guard your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.
  • Don’t pay in full upfront. If the company goes out of business or doesn’t give you everything it promised, you may have difficulty getting your money back.
  • Document the agreement. Get a written contract or print out the agreement so you have proof of what you were promised.
  • Pay the safest way. Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the services or the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly. There are new technologies, such as “substitute” credit card numbers and password programs, that can offer extra measures of protection from someone else using your credit card.