HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It seems as though the holiday shopping season begins earlier and earlier every year.
Just minutes after Halloween ended, many stores began offering sales and discounts ahead of the traditional start of the shopping season. Many of those deals can be found online
Online shopping can be convenient and saves you the hassle of fighting holiday shopping traffic and long lines - as long as you do it responsibly.
Online holiday shopping accounts for over $37 billion dollars every year. It's convenient. You buy it, and in a few days it's delivered to your door, no muss, no fuss.
Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau said that using a debit card instead of a credit card leaves you more vulnerable in the event of a data breach.
Make sure you are doing business with reputable companies.
"Just like when you go to a local business or use a service, you want to know what type of experiences people have had," Mason explained. "You want to know how they are addressing those concerns."
You may even look for the BBB symbol on their page that will take you to their report. And just as you would check out the return policy of a brick-and-mortar store, you want to make sure you are really clear on the online store's return policy as well.
"There is no requirement by law for a company to offer a return policy or even an exchange policy. When we are shopping, it is our responsibility to know the policies upfront. And if we don't like it, we can shop somewhere else," Mason said.
Take heed of these important online shopping safety tips:
- Remember when making purchases online to protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- Check the site's security: On a secure site, the URL should start with "https://." You may also see a closed lock icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
- Pay with a credit card as opposed to a debit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item.
- Shoppers also have dispute rights if someone makes unauthorized charges on your card.
- Save a copy of the confirmation page or the email confirming your order until it is delivered.
- If you need an item before the holidays, make sure you are clear on when it will be shipped and by what method. A tracking number will help you check its location and find a lost package.
- Know your rights. Federal law requires all orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised and within 30 days if no date is given. After that time, you can cancel the order. You can also reject the order if it is damaged or was misrepresented.