What Not to Buy Online

While it's very convenient to shop from the comfort and convenience of your own home, online shopping is not always the best option-especially when you're looking for something that needs to feel as good as or better than it looks, might require returns or maintenance, or can only be determined as right for you from a face-to-face encounter. Following are five items that are best bought in person.

Plenty of websites are filled with mugs of adorable mutts and kittens, but we caution against purchasing any animal over the Internet. For one, it's difficult to find out who the suppliers behind the website are-the site could just be a benign facade to a cruel mass-producing business like a puppy mill or kitty mill. Also, you won't know the condition of the critter until it arrives on your doorstep-that is, if it survives the shipment. Finally, it's not a good idea to buy a potential pet online because you won't get valuable face time, which is critical because only then can you glean the creature's behavior-and more importantly-determine whether or not you feel that special connection with what will ultimately be a member of the family.

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Goods from Overseas
While there are some exceptions, most items sold overseas come with all kinds of proverbial baggage. First, your credit card is likely to charge you an extra fee for currency exchange. Then there's the problem of what happens if the item arrives damaged. And never mind return policies; the cost of shipping the item back is likely to dissuade you from doing so. Then there's the matter of unreliable customer service and credit card number security. Unless you're buying something you know you want and can't find elsewhere, you're better off buying from a US source.

Makeup You've Never Tried Before
It's difficult to determine whether a lipstick or blush, much less a full-coverage foundation, will work well against your skin tone without trying it on. When it comes to new colors and products, we advise that you go to the cosmetic counter at your local department store or beauty store and ask the attendant to apply the unfamiliar makeup on you. See how the colors look on you outside in natural light and wear them throughout the day to determine the products' longevity. If you're happy with the look, feel, and lastingness of the makeup, only then you should make your purchase online or back in the store!

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Cheap Designer Goods
If you spot a pair of ridiculously cheap Chanel sunglasses or Louboutin pumps online, proceed with caution: Most likely the drastically discounted designer goods are counterfeit. And although it can be nearly impossible to determine a fake online-much less in person-the biggest clue is the price. To ensure that you get authentic designer goods, your best bet is to shop on the designer's website or a reputable, well-known retailer's site.

Prescription Drugs from Unreliable Sources
The FDA warns against purchasing prescription medication from unfamiliar and non-US-based online pharmacies because you could end up with drugs that are fake or include dangerous ingredients. Also, some pharmaceutical websites are nothing more than well-constructed cons that trick you into giving up personal information. Avoid becoming the victim of identity theft-or worse-by watching for red flags, including sites that don't require a prescription, don't have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions, or don't provide their physical business address and phone number.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.