Safely Order a Gift Online

You can safely order a gift online
by taking a few simple precautions.
Better safe than sorry!

Online shopping is fast and convenient, for sure! But before you order a gift online, spend a few moments to check out some details on the seller's website. It's time well spent to avoid serious problems. Here are eight important issues to consider:

1. Security: Your Browser and Their Site

Encryption technology is a feature of today’s browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer or Firefox). It is called “SSL” (Secure Sockets Layer) technology, and it Order a gift online: secure computerscrambles the information you give with your order. Use the latest browser version so your computer has the latest encryption capabilities.

For added protection, look for “https” (instead of the usual “http”) on the URL/address bar for the order page. This provides secure online shopping and credit card encryption. If you are unsure whether these security measures are in place, you may prefer to place your order by telephone or fax, if those services are available.

2. Contact Information

Online shopping sites should make it easy to find their address, telephone number, fax number, and/or email address so you can contact a real live person when you need to. If you cannot find contact information, I recommend that you find a different web merchant. After you order a gift online, check your email daily: merchants usually send a confirming email and may send shipping and other information about your order.

3. Privacy Policy

Before you send personal information to a shopping website, know what they will do with it and whom they will share it with. You are there to order a gift online, not to sign up for spam! There should be an opportunity to “opt out” of special offers from this merchant and/or other parties. Look for a privacy policy link on the site’s home page; or perhaps it will appear with legal information, ordering information, or on their FAQ page.

4. Sending Payment

If your online merchant offers PayPal, that's a safe way to pay. You need to set up a PayPal account, which is easy to do. Then you can send payment (check, ATM or credit card number) to PayPal, who pays for your purchase without exposing your personal information to the seller.

Whether you send payment to PayPal or direct to the merchant, when you order a gift online I strongly recommend that you pay by credit card. Credit Order a gift online: credit cards offer some offer an important legal protection: if your card is stolen, (U.S.) Federal law limits your liability to $50. If just your credit card number is stolen (and not the card), you have no liability for unauthorized use. Another benefit: your credit card company may offer a warranty or purchase protection on items bought with their card.

Please note that a debit/ATM card (even one that looks like a credit card) does not carry the same protection. Because funds are deducted directly from your bank account it is possible, in some cases, to lose all the money in your account including your line of credit. For more detailed information, please check the Federal Trade Commission website for articles related to online shopping.

5. Additional Fees

Some web merchants charge handling, insurance, or other fees in addition to the shipping fee. The bottom line can vary from one website to another. And you could pay more online than at the mall, but for many folks the convenience is worth the extra money. Especially with 38 inches of snow in the street, and more coming!

6. Shipping Options

Before finalizing your online shopping order, consider how your package will be shipped and when you can expect it to arrive. You will probably have the option to pay an extra fee for faster delivery, and another extra fee for insurance. If you have a choice of shipping method, Tips for Shipping a Gift will help you to compare the services of four major shipping companies.

It’s up to you to make judgment calls when you order a gift online. Be sure to find out how to track your order, either online or by telephone, and make a note of your order confirmation number and/or tracking number.

Order a gift online: woman using credit card.7. Return and Refund Policies

Be sure you understand the terms of the merchant’s guarantee policy and how returns and refunds are handled. See if they will pay to ship a replacement if one is necessary (a definite plus, but don’t be surprised if they charge you for shipping). If a guarantee and/or return and refund policy is not easily found on the website, I recommend that you shop elsewhere.

8. Keep a Record

This is important! When you order a gift online, keep your order confirmation and any other online/email information, along with any receipts and return papers that come with the shipment, until your order is received in acceptable condition and your credit card bill is paid. You will need to produce documentation if your package does not arrive as fast as you paid extra for, or if it is damaged in shipment, or if the merchandise is defective, or if you want to return or exchange it for whatever reason. Be sure to check the paperwork against your credit card bill and report any discrepancies immediately.

Online shopping is convenient and fun and it saves time, hassle, and often a significant amount of money. There can be pitfalls, but remember that millions of trouble-free online shopping transactions are completed every day (every so often one of them is mine!).

Order a gift online: website shopping cart (cartoon)A few minutes’ attention to the eight issues
outlined above will assure your success
when you order a gift online.

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Other graphics courtesy of Microsoft.