Online Shopping

Hawaii's geographic location makes shopping online both convenient and appealing with many of the benefits not found in stores. In addition to shopping anytime (seven days a week, 24 hours a day), with a click of a mouse or typing keywords in a search engine, you can find any item with a wider selection to purchase than those found in stores.

While online shopping can be cost saving and convenient, shoppers need to be careful of internet security, privacy and safety*:

  • Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates. Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied? If you return it, find out who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will receive your order. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised.
  • Carefully review shipping and handling costs. Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then, compare "apples to apples." Factor shipping and handling along with your needs and budget into the total cost of the order.
  • Know exactly what you're buying. Read the seller's description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like "refurbished," "vintage," or "close-out" may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with "too good to be true" prices could be counterfeits.
  • Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of every email you send or receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them and be on the lookout for unauthorized charges.
  • Use extreme caution when purchasing from lesser known merchants. Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. If you get an email or pop-up message while you're browsing that asks for financial information, don't reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email.
  • Secure your wireless network and use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Make sure your wireless routers, access points and base stations have built in encryption mechanisms. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall and keep them up to date. If you are using a laptop computer in a public area such as a library or coffee shop, consider waiting until you get home or are connected to a secure network to shop online. Wireless networks in public places are not secure.
  • Don't email your financial information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your financial information through an organization's website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a URL for a website that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.
  • Check the privacy policy. It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why, and how they're going to use the information. If you can't find a privacy policy — or if you can't understand it, consider taking your business to another site that's more consumer-friendly.

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