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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2018 > Practice Smart Online Holiday Shopping

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Practice Smart Online Holiday Shopping


If you’re shopping online this holiday season, you’re not alone. Each year, more consumers go online to buy gifts for their friends and family. To help you avoid scams and make the most of your money, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is offering 10 tips for smart online shopping. 

  1. Buy from trusted websites. You can check a store’s reputation by researching complaint history at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Also, use the internet to look up consumer reviews by searching for the company’s name along with terms such as “complaint,” “scam,” or “review.”
  2. Use secure websites whenever you disclose personal or financial information online. Look at the beginning of the website address for the lock symbol and the “s” in “https,” which tell you the website is secure.
  3. Don’t use free, public Wi-Fi when entering sensitive information like your credit card number. Hackers may be able to monitor your activity when you’re using free Wi-Fi networks. 
  4. Limit what you share. Only provide a seller with as much personal information as is necessary, and understand the store’s privacy policy so you know how your information will be stored, sold, and shared.
  5. Consider paying with a credit card, if possible. Paying with a credit card usually offers greater protections from unauthorized charges compared to other kinds of payment methods. In general, with a credit card, your responsibility for unauthorized charges is limited to $50 and you have certain rights to dispute charges that you may not have with a debit card or other form of payment.
  6. Keep up with updates. Be sure to keep your apps, anti-virus software, operating system, and other important programs up to date on your phone, computer, or other device you use to shop. (Find additional cybersecurity tips on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.)
  7. Check refund policies. Under Ohio consumer protection laws, stores are not required to provide refunds or to have a specific type of return policy, but if they do have a return policy, they must clearly tell you what it is before you complete the purchase. Check a website’s refund policy before making a purchase. If a website has a refund policy, it must be clearly and conspicuously posted.
  8. Understand the role of third-party sellers. Keep in mind that some websites, including Amazon and Walmart, have marketplaces that allow third-party companies to sell products through their well-known online stores. In these cases, you generally would return the item to the actual (third-party) seller, and the return policy may vary from the website’s policy. For example, even if you buy something from a website with a defined return policy, the actual seller may have a different return policy.  
  9. Beware of puppy scams. If you’re looking for a puppy this holiday season, be aware of online puppy scams. A typical scam begins when a consumer finds a website offering desirable breeds of dogs. To buy a puppy, consumers are told to wire a few hundred dollars. After they pay once, they’re asked to send more money for veterinarian costs, shipping, insurance, or other costs. No puppy is ever delivered. The scams often begin with a specific puppy website, but they also may start with a post on social media. To protect yourself, never purchase a pet sight-unseen over the internet, especially from a seller who wants you to pay via money order or wire transfer. Visit the puppy in person and consider working with a local, reputable organization.
  10. Look for exclusions and limitations. Important exclusions and limitations should be clearly disclosed, so check to see if an offer is valid only at a certain time, if limited quantities are available, or if other terms and conditions apply.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at  or 800-282-0515.