Know who you’re doing business with

One of the best ways you can protect yourself from fraud and other online criminal activity is to know who you are doing business with. While many Web sites and emails are designed to look professional and secure, there are often telltale signs that can help you identify ones you want to avoid. The Better Business Bureau has information about online fraud.

Here are some general tips about what to look for and what to avoid.

What to Avoid

  1. Don’t ever respond to pressure to buy. The Internet has no opening or closing time and so shop at your leisure and only buy when you are sure it’s safe.
  2. Don’t provide personal or payment information when requested through email.
  3. Avoid get rich quick schemes.

What to Do

  1. If you have any doubt about a company, check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is legitimate.
  2. Check to ensure Web sites have a posted privacy policy.
  3. Check refund and return policies before you buy.
  4. Protect your personal information. Never give out your user name or password in email and make sure you don’t use the same password for every site you go to. When you create a password for your financial institution, don’t use that password for any other site.
  5. Only provide credit card information or your social security number on a secured site. Look for the https:// in the URL. Check the URL as you go to each new page. The beginning of the URL, such as should stay the same.

Here is the Better Business Bureau’s Quick Check List

To help you shop safely online, take the following common sense steps:

  • Don’t rely on a professional looking Web site as proof of a company’s quality or good reputation.
  • Investigate a company or seller before you buy.
  • Find out where a company is physically located to help avoid overseas or offshore scams.
  • Never give out your bank account number, credit card number, or personal information unless you’re certain a company is legitimate.
  • Pay for your purchases by credit or charge card which can be protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
  • Start with a small, inexpensive purchase to see how the company handles your order.
  • Find out about a company’s return and refund policies before you purchase.
  • Always use a secure Internet browser that “encrypts” or scrambles your personal or financial information.