1 Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
2 Check a site's security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with https://. You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
3 Shop trustworthy websites: Look for the BBB seal on the site and click to confirm that it's valid. New BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site's BBB Business Review. You also may find the review at www.bbb.org.
5 Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
6 Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, the BBB recommends that you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
7 Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never wire money.
8 Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
9 Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
10 Know your rights: Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren't shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.