Essential Guide For Computer Shopping

Computer Shopper – Oct-04
20 ways to shop smart online


Shop Safe, Not Sorry
1.connection’s secure
Before you submit any sensitive or private information about yourselfespecially your credit-card numbermake sure that the data will be encrypted and transmitted over a secure connection. Both your browser and the Web site’s server should support industry standards, such as Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
2.protect your passwords
Don’t create a password based on personal information that can be easily discovered, such as your birth date, telephone number, or Social Security number. Instead, use a unique combination of at least five letters, numbers, or symbols.
3.protect your privacy
Before making a purchase, take a moment to read the company’s privacy policy, which should detail what information the site collects and how it will be used. Limit your exposure by filling out online forms carefully. Never volunteer answers for optional questions. Instead, provide only the information required to complete a transaction. Never divulge personal information such as your mother’s maiden namethat can be used to gain unauthorized access to your accounts. Various free and fee-based Web services will let you surf and shop anonymously. For example, Anonymizer (www.anonymizer.com) offers privacy apps that will let you visit Web sites without revealing your name or e-mail address.
4.use an insured payment method
Paying for your online purchases with a credit or charge card isn’t just convenientit’s smart. Your transaction is protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, which gives you the right to dispute charges and to withhold payment until the dispute is settled. In addition, if your credit card is stolen or used fraudulently, you are normally only liable for a portion of the total amounttypically no more than $50.
5.check references
Look for the Better Business Bureau Online Reliability Seal (www.bbbonline.org), which guarantees that a company has been in business for a minimum of one year, has become a member of a local Better Business Bureau, and agrees to arbitration in case of a dispute. Advocacy sites such as BizRate (www.bizrate.com) and Reseller-Ratings.com (www.resellerratings.com) conduct customer surveys and publish ratings for categories such as quality of merchandise, quality of customer service, and timeliness ofshipping.
eBay (www.ebay.com) provides a handy feedback section, where purchasers can comment on the reliability of individual sellers.
6.check the terms of the sale
Reputable online retailers display the terms and conditions of the sale, including warranties on the merchandise, limitations of liability, and return and refund policies. Some sites display this information prominently on a “click-wrap” screen that requires you to accept the terms before completing the purchase, while other sites provide links to the information.
7.include taxes and shipping
Scrutinize the shipping and handling fees tacked onto your bill before you finalize a purchase. Per-item fees and expedited-shipping methods can bloat the total purchase price. Look for sites that offer lowcost shipping methods or that deliver free of charge when you place a large order. Charging sales tax is required by law in many states.
8.double-check order forms
Before you click to close the deal, thoroughly proofread your order form. Typos, such as entering “22” instead of “2,” can be costly mistakes. If your shipping address differs from your billing address, there is no way for the vendor to confirm its accuracy, so be sure to doublecheck it yourself. You should also ensure that the pricing information you see onscreen is current and not an older price from a page that was cached on your system during a previous visit to the site.
9.estimate the delivery date
The seller should inform you of an approximate delivery date. Federal
Trade Commission rules state that if the seller does not specify a time period in which the product will be shipped at the time of purchase, the merchant must either ship the product within 30 days, or notify you of the delay and offer to cancel the order and refund your money.
10.complain about problems
If you do experience a problem with an online purchase, notify the company immediately. Check the Web site for a toll-free phone number, an email address, or links to customer service. If the company itself does not resolve the problem, contact the Better Business Bureau (www.bbbonline.org), the Federal Trade Commission(www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm), or your state attorney general’s office (www.naag.org) to lodge a formal complaint.
Save Time & Money
1)Charge It!
Never pay by check or money order when you buy onlinealways use a credit card.
2)Look for Seals
Look for seals of approvalfrom Yahoo, TRUSTe, and the Better Business Bureau. These ensure that the company is legitimate and that your personal information will be protected.
3)Be Specific
If you know the name and model number of the product, enter them for faster searching.
4)Buy Big
Consider buying smaller items such as printer toner cartridges, diskettes, Zip disks, and cables in volume to save money on shipping.
5)Click and Save
Almost all vendors offer coupons and rebates, but few consumers bother to search them out. Try clicking over to a coupon-code site such as DealCatcher.com (www.dealcatcher.com) before you buy.
6)Buy Used
Check vendors’ closeout and refurbished product selections. These sections often include amazing bargains. Just make sure what you choose includes a warranty.
7)Search Smart
Use price-comparison engines such as Shopping.com (www.shopping.com) or PriceGrabber.com (www.pricegrabber.com), to gauge prices among resellers. Most of these handy sites will even include shipping fees and let you compare similar products side-by-side.
8)Get Help
When you have questions, use online customer-service support features, including e-mail, chat, and Voice-over-IP functions, as well as traditional toll-free numbers.
9)Save and Print
Save a copy of your online order receipt by saving the Web page to your hard drive. Better yet, for added security, print it out.
10)Track Your Delivery
Pay careful attention to shipping information and options. If at all possible, get a tracking number.

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