Shopping Online

Know The Merchant

You can often find helpful information about online companies from Internet news sources, directories, rating services and the Better Business Bureau. The Federal Trade Commission maintains a website ( that provides many buyers’ guides, lists of tips and links to helpful resources.

Protect Your Privacy

 Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be used and if they share it with or sell it to others. You can do this by reading the privacy policy posted on the company website and making sure that you’re comfortable with how your information will be treated. (If no privacy policy exists, shop somewhere else.)

Look for seals from privacy enforcement organizations like TRUSTe® or BBBOnLine. Be cautious if you’re asked to supply personal information not needed to make a purchase, such as your Social Security number or personal bank account information.

Understand What You’re Getting Into

 Check for expected delivery dates, shipping and handling fees, warranties, return policies and other important information. Make sure that an e-mail address is available to write to – and/or or a phone number to call – if you have a question or if you need help.

Use A Credit Card And Safeguard Your Password

 If you use a credit card to make your purchase, under federal law, your maximum liability for an unauthorized charge is $50. When using a credit card online, look for an unbroken key or padlock (a graphical icon usually located in the bottom corner of the web page), or for a policy that indicates use of strong security technology such as SSL. This indicates that your credit card data is transmitted securely. Keep your passwords safe, and don't share them with other people.

Keep Good Records

Make sure to print or save electronically any records related to your online transactions. This will help you keep track of shipping dates, shipping and handling fees, and other transaction details.

For more information, including tips on how to safely navigate auction sites, visit the FTC’s guide to shopping online.