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I Have a Problem, Now What? Take Action!

  • Try to resolve the dispute with the merchant directly
  • Take your complaint up with the Better Business Bureau
  • Report the fraud to the proper authorities




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Home / Privacy / Shopping / Avoid Online Fraud

Steps to Take to Avoid Online Fraud

  1. Deal with reputable companies (companies you already know from their retail stores, mail order catalogs or other services).
    • At a minimum be sure that you have the company's physical address (preferably not a PO Box) and a telephone number so that you can contact them offline.
    • See if the site is a member of a privacy seal program, for example BBBonline, CPAWebTrust or TRUSTe.
    • Check with your state Attorney General for any adverse reports of the company you are dealing with. (Be aware that information on some companies that may be fraudulent is not always available if they are new.)
  2. Read the Web Site Privacy Policy
    • Although sometimes very lengthy, the privacy policy provides important information about the information that the business collects about you, how it is used and whether they have taken reasonable security precautions to protect you from credit card fraud. (Reasonable security precautions include: encrypting your credit card and other personal information during your transaction, the merchant keeping your personal information in its computers encrypted, allowing you to block personal information from being shared with other people or companies.)
  3. Only give out information that is necessary for the transaction.
    • If you are unsure of the credibility and security of the Web site or why the information is needed, don't divulge any personal information such as your credit card number, Social Security number, phone number or address.
    • To clarify any uncertainties you may have over a sites security or privacy policy contact the company by phone and ask questions about these issues.
  4. Before you type in your credit card or sensitive information, be sure the site is encrypted. This is shown by either:
    • A closed lock on the bottom or your screen.
    • An unbroken key on the bottom of your screen.
    • The prefix https:// instead of http:// in the URL.
  5. "Start with small and inexpensive purchases to see how the company handles your order" - bbbonline.org
  6. Create unique passwords - don't use your date of birth, social security number or recognizable words. One strategy for creating and remembering passwords is to come up with a phrase that only you would remember. For example, the phrase "I was married on June 24 in Finland," would result in the password "iwmoj24if" by using the first letter of each word in the phrase. This password includes both letters and numbers and will be more difficult to guess. Another easy way to remember a combination of these is to take the first letter of a favorite song or phrase, for example "Old McDonald Had a Farm" could be "omhaf."
  7. Never disclose your password to anyone, even customer service representatives.
  8. Never send sensitive information by email as it can by easily intercepted.
  9. Make sure you are on the Web site of the company that you want to do business with. Online crooks can create Web site names (URL's) very similar to those of legitimate companies.
    • To check whether the site you are on is that of a legitimate company visit www.whois.net which tells you who has registered the URL and the physical address of the company.
  10. Check company policies.
    • Before you purchase online check the return and cancellation policy, delivery time, warranty information and check the final cost, including the shipping. Print out this information in case you need it later.
  11. Print and keep information for your records.
    • Print out the order for with your purchases and confirmation numbers in case there is a disputer later or the products are not delivered.
    • Online order are protected under the federal Mail/Telephone Order Merchandise Rule (unless the site says otherwise merchandise should be delivered to you within 30 days.)
  12. Never send cash, as it does not create a record of your payment.
  13. Regularly check your checking and credit card accounts to ensure that there are no errors or unauthorized charges.
  14. Understand your responsibilities if your credit card information is used fraudulently.
 
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