Attorney General's News Release
December 2, 2008
Consumers should shop online with care this holiday season
Jefferson City, Mo. - The Attorney General's Office is reminding consumers that while there are bargains and wide selections to be found on the Internet this holiday season, there are also risks involved with online shopping.
Consumers need to try to do business with Web sites that are legitimate and reputable, protect their personal information, and know where to turn if something goes wrong.
The Attorney General's Office offers these tips for online shoppers:
- Use a secure browser. Look for an address that starts with https, rather than http. Also look for a closed padlock icon. In Internet Explorer, this icon is to the right of the address bar.
- Pay with a credit card. Federal law protects you if you need to dispute charges, and this protection does not cover debit cards, checks, cash, money orders or other forms of payment.
- Ask your credit card company for a virtual account number. This is a temporary account number assigned to you that’s different from your regular credit card number. It is good for a limited number of purchases, and it keeps you from having to use your real account number.
- Print your purchase order with details of the product and your confirmation number.
- Don't click the link in an e-mail that appears to come from a retailer. Instead, type in the address of the Web site you intend to visit. E-mail you receive could be spam or a phishing scam, intended to steal your personal information.
- Before you finalize the order, make sure the quantity and total price are correct - for example, don't buy 11 items when you mean to buy one.
- Understand the site's return and refund policies. There is no law that requires retailers to accept returned merchandise.
- For expensive items listed at an online auction, use a third-party escrow service. This company pays the merchant only after you're satisfied with the product.
The top Internet consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission each year is the online auction.
Consumers can also check potential gift items for recall notices, whether shopping online or in person. The Attorney General's Web site, ago.mo.gov, features a recall clearinghouse with a list of recent recalls for toys, food, cars and other consumer products.
Missourians who have complaints about retailers can file complaints at the Attorney General's Web site or by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.