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Staying safe while you shop online

Online shopping is a convenient way for people to purchase products. Eight out of every 10 shoppers shop online once a week, according to a Kantar Media company. Your Better Business Bureau warns people about shopping while surfing the web.

So far this year, your BBB has recorded more than 584,000 inquiries and almost 9,300 complaints about the online shopping industry across North America. Locally, your BBB received more than 3,200 inquiries.

Your BBB offers advice for online shopping:

• Get familiar with the website. Check the URL to make sure it starts with https://. Also look for a small padlock icon usually located at the corner of the URL bar. These symbols tell shoppers a website is secure.

• Protect your personal information, such as credit card, banking or Social Security numbers. Only provide financial information through secure websites. Check the privacy policy to see how the business will use the information requested.

• Use a credit card. A purchase with a credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, a debit card is not. Customers can put a hold payment while a problem is resolved. This act also protects customers in the event credit card information is stolen and used without permission.

• Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid websites luring you to look at sensational videos or offers to give away dream vacations.

• Look for the BBB seal and other widely recognized trustmarks on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

• Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.

• Be sure to log out of websites. Many scams take advantage of a computer user’s habit of staying logged into sites. This makes it easier for scammers to purchase items in your name.

• Read the fine print. When buying a product, read the whole description. It’s important to understand the product details so there are no surprises when it’s delivered.

• Keep documentation of your order.

• Check the return policy. Read the return policy to see if the business allows a full refund if the customer is not happy with the product. Review the policy to see who pays the cost of shipping and handling for the return.

• Don’t believe everything you see. A scammer can steal logos, colors and headers from established websites to fool you.

For more advice on online shopping safety and fighting fraud, visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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