Consumer 6: Tips for Holiday Shopping On-Line


Tuesday, November 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


The holiday shopping season is in full swing and more of us than ever before will find the perfect gift on the Internet. But if you think shopping in cyberspace is too risky, there are ways to protect yourself.

Although stores are full of shoppers this season, many people will be staying home and doing their shopping on-line. Shoppers are expected to spend up to ten billion dollars on-line this season. Some shoppers are still skeptical. "As soon as I know credit cards are a little safer, I might try it,” said one shopper. "On-line shopping is safe if you know what you're doing,” said the Better Business Bureau’s Rick Brinkley, “if you know how to make sure that it is a secure web site." The B-B-B says shoppers should look for a padlock at the bottom of the screen. The padlock is the sign of a secure site.

Tulsa based buyitnow.com is one of several web sites that treat security as a top priority. The Internet shopping mall follows policies set up by Visa and MasterCard. They have a secure server that processes credit card information off-line. "The security on-line is actually better than it is off-line," said Buyitnow.com’s Randy Jo Wilcox.

The company also uses a coding method known as 128-bit encryption. Everything is scrambled, so that when the information you type in is transmitted to a company, it's scrambled 128 different ways. “We don't even store the credit card number, so we can't see it," explained Wilcox. Shoppers who don't want to give their credit card number on-line can call a toll free number to order or ask questions. Workers at Buyitnow.com also verify orders above $300 and investigate possible fraud.

Security and privacy policies are posted on most web sites and the B-B-B advises you to carefully read them before you shop. When you do buy something, print out a copy of the order and find out when it will arrive. "By federal law they're required to ship that product within 30 days unless they tell you otherwise or unless you're applying for credit,” said Brinkley. “So make sure you know when you're going to be receiving the merchandise."

The Better Business Bureau advises when shopping online to keep the following things in mind:

 Think about security, starting with your connection. Unsecured information sent over the Internet can be intercepted.

 Pay attention to the address of the merchant’s site. The URL ensures that you are
dealing with the correct company.

 To protect yourself, never use the same password you use for other accounts or sites.

 Be cautious if you’re asked to supply personal information, such as your Social Security number or personal bank account information. They should not be required to make a purchase.

 A site should also have a privacy policy telling you how it will treat information you submit while making a purchase.

 Always print out a copy of each purchase order with a confirmation number and file it.

 Ask about shipping charges so you’ll know in advance what you will be expected to pay. Before ordering, understand the company’s return policy.

 Under law, a company should ship your order within the time it advertises. If a deadline for shipment is not given, federal law says the company should ship the product within 30 days, unless you are applying for credit. Companies must alert you to delays and get your approval or let you cancel and receive a refund.

For more on-line shopping information, go to
http://bbbonline.org/consumers/shopping.html