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Online shopping: safe, but not what it seems

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There is a lot of rubbish spoken and written about the dangers of online shopping. The chances of you getting stung on the Internet are a lot lower than that of a waiter copying your card details behind the counter in a restaurant. I have been ripped of in this latter fashion and, although I do a lot of my buying online, I have, fingers crossed, never been had in this way. There was one occasion when I was sent an e-mail from some bloke who had waltzed electronically into the database of a computer dealer which I had recently bought some kit from. He, fortunately, was an anorak hacker in search of truth but I never used that dealer again.

The things you need to know when shopping online are: where you are shopping (as in the physical address); that shopping online is not necessarily cheaper (though it should be because their costs are lower); that you should use a credit card - not a debit card, which offers no protection against fraud; and that nothing is ever free.

There has been a 'free' printer offer whizzing around the ether and the AJ thought it would interesting to check it out. Free turns out to be about £45 - not a lot less than the price of a tolerable lowend printer - and it has the smallest print cartridges I have ever seen. A portion of the not-quite-zero price is for post and packing, the rest for the cartridges.

Now, we know that inkjet ink is, weight for weight, just as expensive as gold (it is). So we reckoned on buying cheap clone cartridges from a local computer fair. Well, that was the idea but the quality of printing was such that our tester decided to revert to an old HP Deskjet. I slipped in a side order for another, bigger printer. It never arrived.

The chap at the company tried to lay all the responsibility onto its delivery service and was astonished when I used extremely bad language. I never got the printer, although the company grudgingly refunded the dosh. But don't let this put you off: there are unpleasant people in every realm.

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