Avoid being ripped off while shopping online

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For many, shopping online is a convenient alternative to the store, especially during the holiday season. But the downside is that it's a prime time for scammers to steal your money and information.

To avoid problems, the Federal Trade Commission said it's important to know who you're dealing with. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Also, confirm the seller's address and phone number. Know what you're buying, read the description closely, and look for words like "refurbished" or "vintage." Know the true cost of the item, compare it to similar items online, factoring in shipping and handling costs.

Be sure you get the details. Can you refund the item? Who pays the shipping costs if you do? An FTC rule requires sellers to ship items by the date promised, or within 30 days after the order if no specific delivery date is set.

The FTC said it is best to pay by credit card so your transaction is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute charges under certain circumstances and can temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates. And keep your records, including the product description, price, receipts, and emails.

If you have already shopped and are disappointed with the product or never received it at all, the FTC recommends to first return to the site or page where you bought it, if needed call customer service or the company's headquarters.

In the case of complaints about social media boutiques, the FTC recommends to post your complaints to their pages using a reasonable tone, and clearly explain your problem. The FTC also said you can also write a letter, they have a sample letter on their website.

If needed turn to outside help. Your state attorney general, or Better Business Bureau might be able to help. The FTC will not resolve individual complaints, but can help law enforcement detect patterns of wrongdoing, and lead to an investigation.