Skip to main content

Consumer Protection Law

Search for an Attorney  

Protect Your Personal Finances While You Shop Online

Key Takeaways:

  • Federal laws protect your online purchases made with credit cards or bank debit cards.
  • You can protect your online shopping by using strong passwords, secured connections, and monitoring your credit and banking information.
  • If you suspect your personal information has been compromised, you can report it to your bank and credit card company.

Shopping online through sites like Amazon is convenient, but it can also expose you to hackers looking for your personal data and financial information. Even using public Wi-Fi hotspots can put you at risk of giving others access to your personal information. Consumer protection laws protect you from unauthorized purchases but you may have to report any suspected fraud.

For more information, talk to an experienced consumer protection lawyer about your rights.

What Online Consumer Protections Do You Have?

Many consumers pay for their internet purchases with credit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects online shoppers. The Electronic Funds Transfer Act protects consumers who pay with their debit cards or ATM cards.

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the Federal Credit Billing Act were enacted in the 1970s and 1980s to protect consumers who use electronic funds or credit cards. These laws came before the online shopping boom, but they have important implications for online purchases.

As online payment options continue to expand, there are new apps and ways to pay that go beyond just credit cards and debit cards. Common examples include:

  • Venmo
  • PayPal
  • Cash App
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay

When You Pay Online With a Credit Card

Many people are concerned about having their credit card numbers stolen or misused when they shop online. A stolen credit card can be a big headache. You should understand how the Federal Credit Billing Act protects online consumers.

If your credit card details are stolen, the cardholder is generally not responsible for unauthorized purchases. However, if someone takes your physical card, then you might have to pay for the first $50 of unauthorized purchases.

The law also protects credit card users against billing errors. Remember: You must notify the credit card company as soon as possible if there is a mistake on your bill. Contact your credit card company no later than 60 days after receipt of the first bill containing the error or unauthorized charges.

Before you enter your credit card information to make an e-commerce online purchase, make sure the website is secure.

When You Pay By Debit (ATM) Card

Consumers who use debit cards have different obligations than those using credit cards. The Electronic Funds Transfer Act provides that customers must report unauthorized use within two days of learning of it. Otherwise, you may be on the hook for unauthorized charges beyond the $50 limit.

If you wait and report the problem between two and 60 days after learning of it, you could be liable for up to $500 in unauthorized purchases. If you wait more than 60 days, you may have to pay for the unauthorized charges.

You can turn on text or email notifications to know when anyone is using your bank account information.

Shopping With Payment Apps

Paying with mobile apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App is usually safe. These apps have security features and encrypted transactions. Most scams using these apps happen when scammers pretend to be from legitimate businesses to ask for your information.

Make sure you are using the payment app security features and only send money to users you trust. If you get an unsolicited email or phone call from the payment app, be aware that it may be a scammer trying to get your information.

How Can You Minimize Your Identity Theft Risk?

There are some ways to minimize your risk while you shop from the comfort of your home or office. As much as you can, ensure you are shopping on secure websites. Carefully review the website’s return policies before placing your order. Save a copy of your order form or save the confirmation email for your records.

Make sure you review your online security practices to keep your online banking information safe. Here are some security tips to give you additional protection from identity theft and scams.

  • Use strong passwords and update them regularly
  • Use unique passwords, two-factor identification, and a password manager to increase your cybersecurity protection
  • Never give out your Social Security number or personal information over the phone or through email after a solicited call or message
  • Turn on notifications from your credit card company so you know whenever your card is being used
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) to create a secure internet connection and cover your IP address
  • Before you click on pop-ups or links through text messages, be on the lookout for phishing or malware scams
  • Caller ID can be faked, so don’t always trust the phone number you see on your mobile device

Every year, millions of Americans shop online without any problems. However, the best way to protect your transactions is to keep a careful eye on your monthly statement and know your rights as an online consumer.

If you have questions about your rights or if you are the victim of online fraudsters, talk to a consumer protection lawyer about your legal options.

Was this helpful?