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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