Protect yourself while shopping online

Author: Better Business Bureau
Published On: Dec 02 2013 11:39:51 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 02 2013 11:40:16 AM EST

Even though Black Friday is over, the shopping frenzy is not.

According to the National Retail Federation, 129 million consumers shopped online on Cyber Monday in 2012, and with more and more consumers trying to avoid the shopping mall crowds, that number could be even higher this year.

Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens buyers up to attacks from scammers and hackers. Better Business Bureau Serving Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic offers online shopping advice to help fight unscrupulous online sites:

Shop on trustworthy websites. Check a seller's reputation and record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the "s" in https:// in the address box to ensure you're shopping on a secure website.

Beware of "too good to be true" deals. Beware of offers on websites and in unsolicited emails offering extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Don't be afraid to pass up a "deal."

Beware of phishing. If you receive an email claiming problems with an order that asks for personal information or financial information, call the contact number on the website to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.

Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, charges made on a credit card can be disputed if the item is never received. Many card issuers also have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.

Review the return policy. A return policy should be clearly listed on the company's website. Be sure to read all conditions associated with the return policy, specifically how long you have to return an item.

Verify shipping and delivery dates. Pay close attention to the estimated delivery time to ensure you will get your item before Christmas. Federal law requires that orders made online be shipped by the date promised. However, if no delivery time is stated, stores have up to 30 days to get the item to you.

Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or an email confirmation. Print and save any confirmations for future reference, or if you need to return the item in the future.