Shopping online has become a normal routine for many Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2017 was $105.7 billion, a 4% increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. While an increasing number of consumers are turning to the internet to shop, all too often, consumers find what they received is not what they ordered. In 2016, BBB received over 13,000 complaints against online retailers from consumers. BBB urges consumers to shop smart by taking your time to understand all of the retailer’s policies before clicking the checkout button.

 

“It’s because shopping online is quick and convenient that an increasing number of consumers are swindled by dishonest merchants,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “That’s why it’s important to make sure you only shop on secure, legitimate websites.”

 

BBB urges online shoppers to be savvy with the following tips:

 

Know the advertiser. Check out the retailer’s Business Profile at bbb.org before shopping. Some of the best deals are only available online, but make sure you are shopping with a company who has a good track record.

 

Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with https:// and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.

 

Shop savvy. When shopping online, take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for a return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, some may have restocking fees. Know before you buy.

 

Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, you have no way of knowing what they will do with your personal information.

 

Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections and allows you to dispute any unauthorized charges. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.

 

Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied.

 

Keep a clean machine. Being on unfamiliar sites can lead to malware or viruses being downloaded on to your computer. Make sure you have the most up to date firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet and smart phone.

 

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.