How To Shop Online Safely

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There are multiple advantages to online shopping: no worrying about traffic, parking, lugging heavy packages, shopping hours...the list is long and attractive.

And statistics prove there are more people shopping online than ever, and the numbers will be growing indefinitely.

Are you still holding out, convinced you may become a victim of fraud, or worse, identity theft? Here are some reassuring facts, and information you can use to protect yourself.

1. You are more likely to be safer shopping online. When you are placing your order, look for the URL to begin with "https" instead of "http". This means the site has SSL, or secure-socket-layering. Remember, there are no helpful elves processing your order. It is done automatically by computers, not by a human.

Another thing to look for: Is the URL a readable website name? If you see only numbers after the "http", with absolutely no text anywhere, definitely beware.

2. Look for a phone number that is actually answered by a human being. Of course be reasonable; a mom-and-pop operation will not be available around the clock, but you should be able to reach someone during normal business hours, or get a call returned.

3. A reputable site also does business with other businesses, meaning they have a Hacker Safe rated site, and have payment alternatives such as PayPal.

4. Read the privacy policy, or call to verify it.

5. If you are not using a third party escrow service like PayPal, use a credit card for payment; your liability is protected by your bank.

6. Do not give out credit card information by email or instant messaging. Neither is encrypted (scrambled) for safety.

7. If you are asked for extra information during checkout, such as a social security number or date of birth, beware. Your bank has the information needed; a merchant would not need to know this.

8. Save your receipts, and check your bank statements.

If you follow these simple tips, rest assured your online shopping experience will be a good one. The truth is, if you are doing online business with a reputable company, you are safer shopping online than in face-to-face transactions.

On a secure site, there is no 'middle man' between you and the bank, such as a clerk or a waiter.

I hope you have a safe and wonderful Holiday season.