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The advantages to shopping online are many – no waiting in line, a broader range of products on hand and quick price comparisons. The simplification of online retail does require a few simple precautions, however, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Extension resource management specialist.


The first consideration is a bit of ageless wisdom: “If a deal or special doesn’t make sense or seems too good to be true, move on,” she said.


Before making an online transaction, consumers should verify the physical address and phone number of the online retailer to ensure the seller is legitimate.


Consumers also should know exactly what they are buying and how much it costs – the full cost, including fees and charges. In short, don’t be lulled into making mistakes. Look closely at every detail of the deal.


“Definitely do some comparison shopping, and don’t forget to factor shipping into the cost,” Clampet said. “Read product descriptions closely, too, including any fine print. Words such as ‘refurbished,’ ‘vintage’ or ‘closeout,’ may mean the product is in less-than-top condition.”


Other important terms of the purchase include delivery dates and refund policies.


When it comes to consumer privacy, the company’s policy should explain what personal information is being collecting and what will be done with that information. If the policy is unavailable, unclear or difficult to find, consumers may consider taking their business elsewhere.


Using a credit card to make online purchases ensures the transactions are covered under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows consumers to dispute charges and withhold payment until the creditor investigates. Many credit cards also offer protection if the item is damaged.


Consumers should keep records of transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt and any other correspondence sent by or received from the seller. Computer screen image captures can be helpful.


“Monitor your credit card statement to make sure there are no mistakes and all the charges listed are ones you made,” Clampet said.


If there is a dispute, consumers should initially try to resolve any disputes directly with the seller. If that course of action is not successful, potential shopping fraud can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission or any state attorney general.

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