Staying Safe While Shopping Online

April 17, 2020

Online shopping has become even more convenient during the coronavirus pandemic, but your money and personal information can still end up in the hands of scammers if you aren't careful. Follow these tips for hassle-free cyber shopping.

Get the details

  • Know what you’re buying. Read the description of items closely. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the item is in less-than-perfect condition, while items listed as name brand with bargain prices may be counterfeits.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Anyone can set up an online shop under almost any name. Confirm contact information for the seller in case you run into any issues with your order.
  • Know what it will cost. Compare prices from multiple vendors, and don’t forget to factor in any shipping and handling costs.
  • Know what the terms are. Know details of your purchase such as delivery dates and return policies. Don’t forget to check on who pays return shipping if the item isn’t what you had in mind.
  • Check your order even after placing it. Stores are having trouble keeping certain items on the shelves, and will often give the option for you to allow substitutions if they don't have your exact item in stock. Make sure you check your order frequently to stay in-the-know on what you'll actually be receiving.

Pay by credit card

Paying by credit card protects your transaction under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This law allows you to dispute charges under some circumstances and withhold payment while the dispute is investigated. In addition, some credit card companies guarantee that you won’t be held liable for any unauthorized online charges, and some provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.

Keep Records

Print or save records of your online transactions. This includes product descriptions and prices, receipts, and any online communications you have with sellers. As always, monitor your credit card and debit card statements and be on the lookout for any charges you don’t recognize.

Protect your information

  • Keep your financial information secure. Email is not a secure method of transmitting sensitive information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number. No one should be asking you for this information via email. When checking out online, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins with https.
  • Check the privacy policy. Privacy policies tell you what information website operators are collecting, why, and how they will use the information. If you can’t find or understand the privacy policy, consider taking your business to a more user-friendly site.

How to report online shopping fraud

If you have a problem during a transaction, you should first try to settle the issue directly with the other party or the site operator. If that doesn’t work, you may choose to file a complaint with:


Content courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission.

This content is for informational purposes only. Readers should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific advice from their own counsel.