Buying car insurance online can be very helpful and tricky at the same time.  That's why the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance is laying out some guidelines to help cyber shoppers make smart choices and avoid scams.

While the internet can be an easy, quick way for consumers to save money on auto insurance, NJDBI Commissioner Ken Kobylowski says shoppers should surf the web with caution.

“Some of these are legitimate but others can be fake websites, scams or firms that are offering inadequate coverage or very limited benefits.  Consumers need to be careful and follow some common sense practices in order to be able to shop successfully and choose the policy that best fits their needs at the best price.”

John Lamb, Getty Images

Here are some guidelines the NJDBI says buyers should follow  when purchasing auto insurance online:

• Some websites will ask for your information and send it to an agent in your community who will provide the quote and write the policy.

• Not all websites provide immediate quotes. In some cases a company representative will call to confirm information before providing a quote. In this case, ask to have the information e-mailed for your records.

• All of the quotes a consumer receives should have matching coverages and limits. If they do not, consumers should contact the companies and request a revised estimate.

• Some websites are authorized to make coverage available immediately while others cannot even if the consumer has made a premium payment.

• In most cases, once consumers have made a policy payment, they should obtain a temporary insurance card that should be kept in their automobile. Some insurers can issue the policy electronically.

The NJDBI has also released some tips for cyber shoppers when it comes to avoiding fraud and other scams:

• Buy only from licensed companies and agents. To check whether a company or agent is licensed to sell auto insurance in New Jersey, check the Department of Banking and Insurance website or call 1-800-446-7467.

• Be wary of insurance offers obtained by e-mail.

• Be careful if someone asks to drop one type of policy or coverage and buy another type.

• Get rate quotes and other vital information in writing and keep records.

• Make sure you receive your policy, not a photocopy, within 30 days.

Commissioner Kobylowski says consumers should also be careful in providing personal information over the Internet.  Keep your address, phone number, social security number, credit card information and medical information private unless you are dealing with a reputable licensed company or agent that legitimately needs that information to write an insurance policy or take a payment.

“Overall, the Internet can be extremely helpful and convenient for consumers looking to purchase auto insurance,” says Commissioner Kobylowski, “but buyers must take some simple precautions to make sure they are dealing with a legitimate insurance company."