Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Shopping on the Internet
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


The Internet or other "online" services are fast becoming the newest marketplaces of goods and services. They offer a whole new world of shopping opportunities. While purchasing these items may seem easy and convenient, consumers should be just as cautious in cyberspace as they are with any "offline," personal, or telephone credit card purchase. An impressive-looking Internet site does not necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Before you decide to purchase anything, you might want to consider the following:

Consider shopping only with companies you already know
Use the same common sense you would use when purchasing items in a store, by mail, or over the telephone. Before you order something from a new company, ask that printed information, such as a brochure or catalog be mailed to you. Be sure to ask about the company's refund and exchange policy before you buy anything.

Protect your personal financial information
Begin with your Internet connection. Use a secure browser, one that can encrypt or scramble credit numbers or other personal data. Protect your checking account number, credit card numbers and all personal financial information at all times. If you are concerned about the security of this information, consider using the company's 800-number or using a check or money order to pay for your purchase. Always print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records.

Think security
Con artists are adapting to this new technology just as quickly as they have to every other. Be wary of requests for information such as your Social Security number to complete transactions. Be leery if someone asks you to reveal your passwords or any information used to install your online service. Make sure you are comfortable with a company before doing business with it.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
This old addage is just as true with this technology as it has been with any other. As the popularity of the Internet increases, so too will the deceptive advertising, travel scams and bogus contests that have been around for years. Remember, a con artist's Internet web site can look just as professional as a legitimate company's. Always know who you are dealing with.