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Seven Steps to Safe Shopping Online
Illustration: A group of internet users listen to an security expert discuss the fine points of making secure financial transactions on the internet.

Introduction: Online Shopping Safety
— by the BFC Staff

Today, online shopping is ideal for many of us – people with disabilities, people with children, people with hectic schedules, and others who just may not have the time or the energy to spend all day walking around the mall.

In today's world of commerce, the Internet fills a need for busy consumers similar to those mail-order catalogs that were so popular a century ago in rural America (and still popular these days for some with limited Internet skills or who may not have readily available Internet access).

Most of us here at BFC have found that today's online shopping experience is much safer, more efficient, and immensely more convenient than a trip to the mall.

And for careful shoppers, shopping online is usually more cost-effective.

But whether you shop online, or at the mall, or even in a mail-order catalog, you do still have to be careful when you go shopping. However, unlike the risk involved in walking through a dark, desolate parking lot at night with an armload of packages after the mall has closed, it is doubtful that you will be physically attacked and robbed at knifepoint while shopping online.

However, you can still get scammed and robbed by an unscrupulous online merchant.

Consequently, it is vitally important that you learn how to tell the difference between an honest merchant and a scam artist, if you can. And sometimes that is not an easy task.

In the next seven pages, we will cover the following important consumer topics:
How to make sure that your online transactions are secure;
Why Credit Cards are the safest payment method, whether online or in person;
How to make sure that a seller is reputable;
How to make sure merchandise you're buying is genuine, and not a "fake";
Why it is important to know your legal rights as well as your legal obligations;
How to keep records that will track your order and verify your payment;
How to make sure that your merchandise is delivered, and the steps to take if your order is damaged or if you are not satisfied with the merchandise you received.

Much of the advice in this article has been compiled from advice provided by consumer protection experts in government and business, with additional input from BFC Editorial Staffers who have years of personal and professional experience dealing with consumer issues.

Please read this advice carefully before you embark on any major shopping trips in Cyberspace, and make sure you are practicing safe shopping techiques. Paying attention to the details and heeding the advice you find here will help ensure that all of your Internet shopping experiences will be good ones!

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