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Oregon’s Online Shoppers Urged to Get Back to Basics

December 15, 2008

Salem, OR - One bright spot in the holiday retail picture is online shopping, which is expected to be up nine percent this year. However, with $32 billion in online sales expected this season, there are bound to be some unhappy customers out there in cyberspace. For the past few years, Internet sales have ranked fifth or sixth on the Oregon Attorney General's "Top Ten" list of consumer complaints, generating about 500 complaints a year.

Attorney Jim Nehf, chairman of the American Bar Association's Cyberspace Committee, says it's easy to forget exactly where you made a purchase if you surf the 'Net – so saving the Web addresses and full item descriptions of anything you order are important steps, in case there are problems later.

"You want to make sure that you're getting what you think you're getting in the transaction – and not be surprised by contract terms, or something the Web site is doing that ultimately disappoints you."

Nehf has found that Internet buyers don't always heed the basics of smart shopping – things like checking for return policies, warranties and shipping charges, before placing an order.

"In terms of protecting your personal information, it may not be as safe as paying cash at a local store, but it's just as safe as using credit cards in other circumstances, as long as you take some basic precautions."

The other major concern, explains Nehf, is protecting shoppers' identities and credit card numbers. First, he recommends going online to check out a merchant's reputation before ordering. Go directly to the Web site to place the order, rather than clicking on a link in an email message that was sent to you. Make sure you're on a secure portion of the site before placing an order, and use a credit card rather than a debit card to make Internet purchases.

The American Bar Association has a Web site that offers more tips to help with online transactions: www.safeshopping.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR