Online Shopping Tips

Avoid Scam Sites

  • Don’t mistake Pinterest, Instagram or other social media “likes” for a review of the company’s performance. Some people who share or like product photos may not have made purchases.
  • Know that "sponsored" ads and posts on social media are ads paid for by the company. These generally are not vetted by social media sites, and scams are common.
  • Do not click links in promotions sent through social media messaging services, which are unpoliced and rife with scams. Clicking infected links can download malware onto your device.
  • Before you order from a site that's new to you, check to see how it treated other customers. Look at ratings and complaints on sites like or Yelp, or conduct a web search of the company or product name with words like “complain," "scam" or "rip off."


Avoid Complicated Return Policies

  • Read the return policy carefully before you buy. Under Ohio law, stores can set their own return policies, including not allowing returns at all. If stores restrict refunds, they have to tell you that before you buy.
  • Consider shopping elsewhere if a site's return policies are vague, involve complicated steps, or require you to send returns overseas at your expense. Avoid stores that only issue refunds as store credits if you aren't familiar with the store or the quality of its merchandise.
  • Pay close attention to the time you have to make a return. For example, a very short return window might make returns difficult.
  • Find out if the store charges restocking fees, especially for pricey items or electronics.



  • Use credit cards – not debit cards or payment apps – for online purchases. Credit cards have protections that debit cards don’t if a site delivers substandard goods.
  • Save shopping and delivery receipts. Some stores limit refunds if you don’t have a receipt. Keep screenshots of order confirmations in an album or create an email folder for receipts – make sure they're where you can find them if there's a problem.


Guard your Information

  • Consider paying as a “guest,” rather than creating an online account, to avoid having your payment info stored on sites, especially if you don't shop the site often.
  • Keep your operating software updated to protect your device. Get tips and step-by-step guides from our Internet Safety site.
  • Read privacy policies before you download shopping or other apps.
  • Log out of sites and apps when you're done with your transaction.


Dealing with Problems

  • Under Ohio law, companies have to deliver your products within eight weeks of taking your payment unless you agree to a delay.
  • Even if stores don’t allow returns, you have the right to return defective merchandise that wasn't marked "as is."
  • As soon as you receive your order, examine the contents to make sure you received everything.
  • Check electronics and similar devices to make sure they work, even if you aren't planning to use them right away.


File a Complaint:

If you have a problem the site won't correct, file a complaint with the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.

File a Complaint