Internet Merchandise Sales

The Internet opens up a world of products and services, including some that may not normally be available in your area. You can shop conveniently, any time of the day or night. But while there are many legitimate companies online, there are also fraudulent sellers out to cheat consumers.

  • 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 is legitimate. You still need to look for other danger signs of fraud.
  • Be skeptical about incredibly low prices or rebates that promise to cover the entire cost of the product. The goods may not exist at all, or the seller may be on the verge of going out of business and never deliver the promised merchandise or rebate.
  • Understand the offer. A legitimate seller will give you all the details about the products, the total price, the delivery time, the refund and cancellation policies, and the terms of any warranty.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 goods or if 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.