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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2014 > Five Tips to Put Safety First When Shopping Online

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Five Tips to Put Safety First When Shopping Online

Every year it seems more consumers are shopping for the holidays online for all different types of products and services. In fact, for many Ohioans, shopping online has become second nature. Consumers use apps on their smart phones, have their favorite online stores bookmarked, and compare prices online with those offered by traditional “brick and mortar” stores.
Regardless of exactly how much online shopping you choose to do, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers five tips to improve the safety of your online shopping experience. Applying these tips will reduce the potential for scammers to steal your identity or conduct unauthorized purchases with your credit or debit card.
· Keep your apps, anti-virus software, operating systems, and other important programs up to date. Installing updates can add new security patches and other critical files, but it is important to remember to download or update only from the official app-provider.
· Purchase goods only from trusted websites. Check a store’s reputation by researching its complaint history at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Use a search engine to look up customer reviews by searching for the company’s name, along with terms such as “complaint,” “scam,” or “review.” Also, find out a website’s refund and return policies before making a purchase.
· Only provide as much personal information as is necessary. Contact a store’s customer service department if you have questions about why certain information is “required” before submitting orders online. Also, be aware of a store’s privacy policy so you know upfront if your information may be stored, sold, or shared.
· Use credit cards to protect yourself against unauthorized purchases. Federal law limits consumers’ responsibility to the first $50 if fraudulent charges appear on their statement. Some credit cards waive the first $50 and advertise that their customers have zero liability. Be sure to save any communication from the online store, including invoices and confirmation emails, and compare them against your credit card statements to uncover any mistakes, fraudulent charges, or unauthorized purchases.
· Purchase using only secure websites. Whenever you plan to use a credit card or input other personal information, be sure the web address begins with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” indicates a secure connection. Also, do not use free, public Wi-Fi to log in to any accounts or conduct any credit card transactions.
Don’t forget to exercise caution when having packages delivered since packages may get stolen off of doorsteps.  If possible, see if packages can be delivered to places of employment or with a friend or relative who is usually home during the day. 
Shopping online using our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices provides convenience. However, with that convenience comes responsibility. Applying these five tips will put you on the path to securely providing personal information to online stores.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or by calling 800-282-0515.