Take fees into account - There can be substantial price differences for the same merchandise from one website to another. Before completing a transaction, take into account shipping and handling fees, which may boost the total cost beyond what other sellers are offering.
Choose online sellers carefully - Classified ads sometimes offer low prices for some goods, however, there is no protection for transactions between two individuals.
Research websites at bbb.org - This can help avoid many product and delivery problems. If you are buying from an online auction site, verify the seller's ratings to gauge other consumers' satisfaction.
Use a safe payment method - Scammers set up phony sites at this time of year. Avoid sellers who only accept payment by wire transfer or pre-loaded cards, and use either a credit card or established online payment systems.
Watch out for knockoffs - The internet is replete with people selling high-end brands. The price of new items tend to be similar from one vendor to another. If a seller posts a stock image of the item, ask for photos of the item itself, and visit the manufacturer's website to determine that the merchandise is genuine. Counterfeit goods tend to have different stitching, labels and materials than knockoffs.
Look for the "S" - This cannot be emphasized enough. Before entering your credit card number, make sure your browser address window says "HTTPS" and displays a padlock graphic, which ensures the site is taking the necessary precautions to protect your private information.
Terms and conditions - Nobody likes reading fine print but you should know whether your information will be shared with a third party, how it will be used and what sort of information they use. There also should be an opportunity to opt out for information sharing.
Go right to the source - Don't click through to links on sites from emails or social media posts. These can lead to lookalike sites that phish for personal information or download malicious software. It is best to navigate to a large retailer by entering the address yourself into your browser.