Safe Online Shopping Tips

Shopping online can be a great way to snag a bargain, get free shipping, and save you a trip to the mall. But along with the convenience of shopping at home in your pajamas and slippers comes some risk. Review the following safe online shopping tips below.

Know the merchant: If you recognize the merchant you are shopping with from a brick & mortar store chances are that their name is recognizable for a reason and your online shopping experience with them is safe. If you have never heard of the site be extra cautious and check them out thoroughly.

Check the websites privacy policy: Just about every website collects private information from you. From your IP address, email address, to your credit card information depending on what information they collect. Before you give them any of your personal information check out the websites privacy policy. This can usually be found in the footer (the bottom) of most sites pages, but you may need to search around for it if it is not located there. If you find a privacy policy, read it and make sure you understand and agree with what the company says that they will or can do with your information before you give them your personal info. If you cannot find a privacy policy, skip this merchant, plain and simple. No reputable online merchant would be caught dead without a privacy policy.

Search the website name in a any popular search engine: Open up a new window or tab in your browser and go to your favorite search engine (like Google or Yahoo) and search for the companies name. See what comes up in the search results. Look a few pages deep to see what comes up. I once “Googled” a company and found scads of horrible consumer reviews which prevented me from being scammed like hundreds of others had been. If everything checks out in your search proceed to the next step.

Check the URL: Are you about to give this online merchant your credit card number to make a purchase. Check out the URL in the address bar to make sure that it is secure.

What you are looking for:

A URL that looks like this: [https://site-name.com]  (the ‘s’ after the http means secure)

Avoid giving financial information to any site with out the ‘s’ after the http in the URL.

Look for contact information: All legitimate online merchants will have a working phone number where you can speak to a live operator (you may need to wait a while to get one but eventually you can get one). Find the companies phone number and give it a call. That bad merchant I mentioned above that I got bad search result hits, well turns out that company had a phone number listed on their website but when you called it you got a recording that all “customer service” was done online only. Big red flag right there!

Check out shipping and return policies: You are just about there and ready to buy. But stop and take a moment to review the merchants shipping and return policies so that you are aware of the policy before you order. Again this information can usually be found in the footer of the site.

Don’t share: We are all taught from a young age that we must share. “Share your toys with your brother.” When it comes to online shopping though, sharing is not a good thing. Public computers (such as at the library), computers on a network (like at work), or using a shared wireless connection (like at Starbucks) can all be instances where your personal information can be shared with those that you don’t want to share it with. So wait to do your online shopping when you are at home, using your own computer, on a connection that you are sure is secure.

Pay with a credit card: OK so you have checked out the site fully using all the above tips and so far so good, everything checks out. So now you are ready to make that purchase (after all you must get in on that 50% offer with free shipping!) So how do you pay? Financial experts all agree that a credit card is the way to go. Why a credit card and not your bank card? Because most credit cards have protection on them in case your get scammed or ripped off. On the other hand your bank card takes the money right from your bank account and it can take months to settle a dispute, if you can settle it at all. This is a lengthy process, something I have gone through myself and the outcome was not pretty. No credit card? Some card companies such as Discover Card, Bank of America and Citi offer a secure online account number service, a virtual credit card or virtual account number.

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Online Shopping Tips for the Holiday Season

E-commerce is the fastest-growing sector of the retail industry, though sales are highly seasonal. Black Friday is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. It is the busiest day of the year for both online and brick and mortar stores. A little over a month later, on January 1st, the shopping season ends on New Year’s Day.

Though the numbers vary from year to year, holiday shopping typically accounts for around twenty percent of total retail sales for the industry. And virtual stores have been doing a much better job of attracting new customers in recent years than traditional ones. There are many obvious explanations for this.

First and most important, shopping online is safer than it has ever been. As a result, most new customers do not worry about credit card fraud or theft. People who do not regularly shop on the internet are also far more likely to buy online during the holidays, in order to avoid the long lines and the crowded stores.

After several slow seasons in the wake of the Great Recession, most experts are predicting a banner year for online sellers. One of the most respected independent research companies, Forrester Research Inc., recently released a report that says that online sales in the U.S. will rise by a whopping 15 percent this coming holiday season. By comparison, regular brick and mortar stores are only expected to enjoy a year-over-year increase of around 3 percent. Why are shoppers going online?

In addition to the safety and convenience of cyber shopping, it is also typically a bit cheaper. Because they do not have big stores, large staffs or overhead, online sellers can slash prices and pass cost savings along to their consumers. With the economy in a rut, more and more shoppers are going online, as they try to stretch their dollars and get more for less. In this article, we will discuss a few simple online shopping tips for the holiday season.

Check Reviews

As we mentioned, buying online is safer than ever. But it does become a bit riskier during the holiday season. There are unscrupulous sellers that will offer incredible deals to online shoppers and then disappear the next day with their credit card numbers. Yes, it does happen. That is why it is extremely important to make sure that a specific site is on the up-and-up. This can be done with a simple web search. No matter the merchant, there should be a record of what he has done online. Since most online shoppers love to write reviews, you should be able to get the information you need. At the very least, it is important to find out if the seller delivers on time and if his products are as advertised. If you cannot locate a single customer review for a merchant and his deals seem too good to be true, they probably are!

Read Return Policies

About a third of all holiday gifts are either exchanged or returned. Unfortunately, some online sellers have incredibly ambiguous return policies, which may lead to problems in the future. It is also a fact that items that are bought online are far more likely to be returned, since they are purchased sight unseen. For these reasons, it is important to read the merchant’s return policies and make sure he will accept returns, no questions asked. If a seller refuses to accept returns, it is probably best to find another vendor.

Look for Deals

After you have confirmed that a seller is legitimate, it is time to start shopping to save. A savvy shopper can find many ways to stretch their dollars on the internet. In addition to seasonal sales, many of the top merchants offer their customer discounts for buying more. Probably the most common incentive is free shipping. Yes, this discount was designed to encourage you to spend more, but at the end of the day both sides win. You get the merchandise you need at a lower price and the vendor gets to sell a little more.

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Smart Online Shopping Tips

Convenience and speed are among the greatest benefits the Internet has bestowed upon us and both these attributes are best demonstrated when we shop online.

When compared to a brick-and-mortar experience, online shopping has numerous advantages. It helps you avoid the hassle of looking for parking; it saves you the trouble of walking down seemingly endless shopping aisles as you search for items; it helps you save time because you don’t have to travel to the mall; and it helps you skip the long queues at the checkout counter! In addition to this, online shopping gives you access to global premium brands, which may not be available locally, and often entitles you to better deals, bigger discounts and more reward points, which you can redeem for free purchases later on.

So what do you need to shop online? Just a credit card! Your credit card empowers to you to shop from anywhere 24 X 7 through online shopping. Credit card companies such as HDFC, ICICI, Kotak (and even issuers such as VIsa & MasterCard) often have special deals for online purchases. For instance HDFC currently running a program where their members get up to 5 times the points on online purchases. Such offers encourage people to do more of online shopping as there is a sense of gratification for the customer in terms of gifts he can get. However, when buying off the Internet, always ensure that your online purchases are safe. Here are some online shopping tips that will help:

o Always verify that the URL of the website is correct by checking it in the address bar of the Internet browser. This will protect you against phishing.
o Only shop from trusted, well-established and reputed websites.
o Never type sensitive information such as your credit card number, CVV etc. in pop-up windows.
o Sign up for services like ‘Verified by Visa’ or ‘Master Card Secure Code’ before shopping online with your credit card for a safer shopping experience.
o The URL of the webpage where you enter your credit card details should start with ‘https’ and not ‘http’. This indicates it is a secure website.
o Jot down relevant transaction IDs or take printouts of the purchase confirmation screen for future reference.
o Check to see that the webpage you are on has a closed padlock or a key icon on it before entering sensitive information.

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