So you’ve researched an online store’s customer ratings and reviews at ResellerRatings, and the picture looks bleak, yet you’re compelled to push forward and buy anyway. Maybe the price is amazing, or maybe the reviews are only critical about a certain aspect of the store that’s unimportant to you (such as phone service, support, or returns). Whatever the reason you’ve decided to proceed, here’s how to improve your odds of having a good experience when shopping at a less than stellar retailer:
1. Pay with single use credit cards. One of the best ways to pay for purchases is to use single use credit cards. That way if your card number is stolen, there is no way to make additional purchases on the card. If you do not have a single use credit card, you should use a credit card instead of a debit card. According to the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act, you have the right to dispute charges on your credit cards and may withhold payments during a creditor investigation. If at any time your credit card was used without your permission, the act states that you are only responsible for $50 in charges.
2. Always use a credit card and never use your debit card to shop online. If you use your debit card online, an internet thief may steal your card number and drain your account. Depending on your debit card terms of service, you may not be able to withhold payments while your claims are under investigation.
3. Never do business with a retailer that only accepts Paypal, Western Union, cash, or check. There’s no valid reason why a retailer can’t accept credit cards. Credit card processors have standards that merchants must meet to participate, and if a merchant can’t accept credit cards, then there’s probably a good (and likely detrimental to you) reason behind it.
4. Never give out unnecessary information. When filling out shopping forms, only fill out information that directly apply to purchasing. Never give out your social security number; it is not a necessary component to a purchase. Birth date, gender and other personal information should not be necessary for purchasing. Use your best judgment. If a site seems questionable, it’s best to walk away!
5. Use secure sites. When you are ready to buy, never buy from a store that does not use SSL on the credit card page. SSL is a protocol that was created to transmit private information on the internet by encrypting data on the public side as well as a secret key only known by the recipient. Sites that have a SSL connection generally start with “https” instead of “http”, and your web browser often displays a “lock” symbol.
6. Check your financial statements. One of the best ways to save yourself from internet fraud is to keep good tabs of your internet purchases. Save copies of your internet purchase receipts and compare them to your financial records every month. If you see any discrepancies at all, even a dollar, you should take immediate action. Sometimes cyber criminals will make one dollar charges to see if consumers are paying attention.
7. Read privacy and return policies. Privacy and return policies are really boring to read but can save you from companies using your information inappropriately, or getting stuck with a product that cannot be returned.
8. Pick unique usernames and passwords. There is nothing more annoying that having many unique usernames and passwords but it could save you from identity theft. If you use the same username and password at an online store, as you do for your credit cards, Facebook, banking and computer, you will be in a lot of trouble if your widely used username and password are in the wrong hands. Try not to use passwords that are generally known such as birthdays, maiden names or parents or pet names. Try to pick passwords that contain eight numbers/letters/unique characters.
9. Help others by speaking the truth. Reviews at ResellerRatings are shown in Google Product Search, Bing Shopping, and are viewed by millions of shoppers each year. Writing good reviews will enable other consumers to buy from great merchants. Writing poor reviews will help others avoid online shopping hassles with disreputable retailers.
10. If you don’t receive the items that you ordered, and you’ve tried to work it out with the retailer without success, call your credit card company to dispute the charge. Your card company will go to bat for you, and will often resolve the dispute in your favor. Merchants have a duty to deliver the as-advertised product or service to you, the credit card company will hold them to it, and credit card companies have the authority to take your money back from the merchant if warranted.