A friend of mine bought an old International Scout to fix up as a hunting rig and had trouble locating body parts and bolt-on accessories in his local area. When he asked me if I knew of any place he'd missed, I pointed to my computer and asked, "Did you per chance hunt there?"

The World Wide Web is filled with a seemingly endless source of parts and accessories for trucks and SUVs-from the most obvious to the most obscure. What makes the Internet an even more attractive source for parts is that you can do all the scouting for whatever you seek from the comfort of your armchair, 24/7. It's easy, too, even for those who consider themselves computer-illiterate. It's also as secure a means of shopping as going into a brick-and-mortar store-and oft times cheaper.

Retailers have seen the growth in computer use (more than 80 million in homes in 2001) and made it easy to shop with a computer mouse. Today online you'll find very descriptive catalogs, simplified product purchasing, and heavily protected personal history and credit information.

Making Mouse Tracks

With the click of a mouse, you can order everything from tires mounted and balanced on wheels to rebuilt or new engines to body parts and accessories for just about every make, model, and year pickup or SUV out there. The key here is knowing how to search for whatever it is you need in the first place.

Most computers come with a browser installed, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Netscape's Navigator. When the computer boots up and you log onto the Internet, a small white box (in Microsoft Explorer it's the "Search The Web" box) will appear near the top. Move the cursor into that box, enter in a few words related to what it is you're looking for, and hit the "Go" or "Search" button.

For example, if you are looking for sources for a winch, type in "electric winches." If you are looking for a specific brand, make, model, or specific part, type that in. The more specific the information you enter, the more direct the search. Need 1974 Bronco parts? Type "1974 Bronco parts."

A few seconds later another screen will pop up that lists web locations that contain one or more matches to the words you typed in. Click on any of the blue-highlighted titles and you'll be instantly sent to that Web site. A click on the "back" arrow at the top of the screen takes you back to the previous screen. Simple-and fun.

Using the Internet to shop is just as easy. Most sites that offer online shopping have what is called a "shopping cart." That is, you select an item or items you want from a menu on screen, then click on the buttons to conclude the sale.

At the end of the process, you have the opportunity to review the items you ordered, then enter your personal information, such as your mailing address, and credit card. Usually, at any point in making the selections, you can make changes or delete items just as you can with a real shopping cart.

Security Concern)

Be careful though. Sometimes you only want one item, and you may inadvertently select more.

When ordering and entering your personal information, look for a "locked" symbol toward the bottom of your browser. This usually appears as a padlock graphic. This symbol indicates you are on a secure site where the purchase information you send over the Internet is scrambled during transmission, helping to secure your transaction.

If you're unfamiliar with an Internet store, ask them to mail you a catalog or brochure to get a better idea of their merchandise and services. Also, determine the company's refund and return policies before you place your order. These should be posted on the company's Web site.

It's also wise to be creative when you establish a password, and never give it to anyone. Avoid using a telephone number, birth date, or a portion of your Social Security number. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Smart Buying

If you pay by credit card online, the Fair Credit Billing Act will protect your transaction. Under this law, consumers have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.

In the event of unauthorized use of your credit card, generally you are held liable only for the first $50 in charges. Some companies offer an online shopping guarantee that ensures you will not be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made online, and some cards may provide additional warranty, return, and/or purchase protection benefits.

Be sure to print a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records. Also, you should know that the federal Mail/Telephone Order Merchandise Rule covers online orders. This means that unless a clause states otherwise, merchandise must be delivered within 30 days; and if there are delays, the company must notify you.

Many companies with privacy practices post them on their Web site. This policy should disclose what information is being collected on the Web site and how that information is used. Before you provide a company with personal information, check its privacy policy.

Many companies give you a choice on their sites as to whether and how your personal information is used, allowing you to decline having personal information, such as your e-mail address, shared with other companies. Look for this choice as part of the company's privacy policy.

Take note of the site's warranty and return policies in case you order something that arrives in unsatisfactory condition or you need to return an item. Legitimate sites offer warranty and return policies similar to what you find in a brick-and-mortar retailer.

Also, double-check shipping charges and pay attention to how your order is shipped because how much you pay for shipping will depend on what type of service is selected, such as next-day air or land freight.

Finding what you need among the billions of websites sounds daunting. But it really isn't when you use a good search engine and follow these basic shopping guidelines based on common sense.

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Jul 2003
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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