Finding the Best Price
In many ways, the Internet has "leveled the playing field" allowing a variety of merchants to sell at competitive prices. There are also a number of Internet based price comparison services to help you locate the best price for a specific item. However, the buyer should beware when basing their purchase decision on price alone. Be sure to consider shipping & handling fees and sales tax when figuring your total cost. OfficeMax, for example includes free shipping in their price for any order over $50, which often makes for a better overall value. Most price comparison tools overlook these added costs.
Online Shopping Safety Checklist
With more online stores popping up every day, it's important to know the
difference between Web sites that offer a safe, reliable online shopping
experience and those that may give you a headache during the holiday season. To
distinguish between these stores and know whom you can trust, here is a
checklist of what you should expect to find for safe Internet shopping:
A secure site that protects you by encrypting your credit card information during your checkout. This is done when a site's URL address begins with "https://" when you are asked to enter your credit card number or other personal information. Also, if using Internet Explorer as your browser, you will see a closed lock at the bottom of the screen to indicate secure pages; with Netscape, the symbol that is used is an unbroken key.
NEVER include a credit card # or personal identity information such as a Social Security number or date of birth in an Email message. Web sites can be secure; Email messages are NOT.
Extensive contact information that includes a phone number, fax number, e-mail address and standard mailing address. This is especially important when it comes to companies you have not heard of or shopped at in the past.
Clearly stated shipping charges for purchases to eliminate unwelcome surprises. Be aware of the requirements for guarantees such as free shipping or next-day
A customer registration or sign-up page that doesn't require you to provide your Social Security number or information about your bank account.
An expected delivery date that is stated when you make a purchase. When ordering online, you have the right to know if there are any delays and to decide whether you wish to accept the delay or cancel the order. Most reputable stores will tell you up front if the item is out of stock.
A purchase order or confirmation number for your transaction so you can refer to it in the event of any problems. This information should be printed out every time you place an order.
Check your credit at least annually. It's far more likely for your credit card number to be stolen by a waiter in a city restaurant than from an internet transaction. However, we recommend that you take advantage of a free credit report to help protect against identity theft. Credit reports are available free of charge from FreeCreditScore.com, a service of Experian.
If you have been declined credit for any reason, you are also entitled to a free report from each of the 3 major reporting bureaus; Equifax, Experian and Transunion.