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Getting better buys online
Avoid Scam Sites
- Avoid companies that treat customers badly. If you’re considering shopping a site new to you, check the company’s Better Business Bureau rating and history at bbb.org.
- Before you order, conduct a web search of the company or product name with the word “complain” to see if other customers have had trouble.
- Don’t mistake a Pinterest, Instagram or other social media “like” for a review of the company’s performance. Some people who share or like product photos may not have made purchases.
- If you’re having trouble researching a shopping site, check out who is really behind the domain name through Whois. Be cautious if the site hasn’t operated long or if its ownership or location are hidden through a service that allows anonymous registration.
Avoid complicated return policies
- Read the return policy carefully before buying. Stores don’t have to allow returns. Be wary of return policies are vague or involve complicated steps.
- Considering shopping elsewhere if a site requires returns to be sent overseas at the customer’s expense.
- Understand how long you or a gift recipient has to make a return.
- Know if the store charges restocking fees, especially for electronic items. If so, you may want to shop elsewhere.
- Use credit cards – not debit cards – for online purchases. Credit cards have protections that debit cards don’t if a site delivers substandard goods.
- Save shopping receipts for 90 days in case you run into problems. Some stores limit refunds if you don’t have a receipt.
Guard your information
- Make sure to password protect your devices to prevent a thief from accessing your accounts.
- Keep your operating software updated
- Log out of banking and social apps when done.
- Consider paying as a “guest,” rather than creating an online account, to avoid having your payment info stored.
- Don’t pay unless you’re on a secured website. Only make a payment when you see either the character string https:// before the website URL, or a small icon of a padlock.
Buying gift cards
- Buy gift cards from trusted sources to avoid counterfeits.
- Read the terms and conditions on prepaid cards for expiration dates and to see whether there are administrative or reloading fees.
Dealing with Problems
- Under Ohio law, companies have to deliver your products within eight weeks of taking your payment unless you agree to a delay.
- Even if stores don’t ordinarily allow returns, you have a right to return defective merchandise.
- Examine package contents quickly to make sure your order is correct.
If you have a problem with a product or service, speak up. If the store or site won’t correct it, file a complaint
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.