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What is E-Commerce?
You have no doubt heard a lot about e-commerce. In fact, if you've bought a CD online or ordered a book from Amazon.com lately, then you've already participated in e-commerce. E-commerce is simply the buying and selling of goods over the Internet, and it can be a secure, convenient, and cheaper alternative to braving the stores.

Shopping online means that you get to comparison-shop more thoroughly and with less hassle than going from store to store in person. On the Internet, you have dozens of search engines at your service to assist you in scouting out the best online stores to shop from. On the Internet, the neighboring competition for a retailer is just a mouse-click away -- and this means competitive prices for the consumer. Imagine being able to narrow down the cheapest available price on an item, within minutes, from your desktop. Anybody can do it, and if you've done your homework to make certain the merchant is reputable and uses a secure server, it's safe.

Safety In Online Shopping
The number-one concern of online shoppers is where their credit card information is being sent. If you're browsing the World Wide Web with the latest versions of Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, then your browser is capable of handling secure transactions using encryption.

It may be tempting to send cash or a check to an online merchant instead of paying online with your credit card. This is less secure than paying by credit card. When you pay by cash or check, you are responsible for the amount of money that you send to somebody. You can file a complaint or press charges if you never receive your goods, but there are no guarantees that you'll be reimbursed.

When you pay by credit card online, you are backed by your financial institution for all transactions that take place with your card. If you don't receive your merchandise, you can cancel the order. What's more, you are only liable for up to $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act should fraudulent charges occur on your card through either theft or online security breaches. With most credit card companies, this is effective if you notify them of the theft/fraud within 24-48 hours of discovery. A few credit card companies won't even charge this; check with yours to be certain. We have included links to major credit card companies below and their online shopping tips as well as their fraud policies.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces a number of consumer protection laws. The FTC does not take part in resolving individual consumer cases, but may take action against a vendor if they see a pattern of unlawful activity. You can reach the FTC online at http://www.ftc.gov. They also have Online Shopping Tips available as well as an Online Complaint Form.

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