An Essential Guide to Safe Online Shopping

Online shopping is a fast and convenient way to buy almost any product you can think of. There are many advantages to shopping online, including lower prices, avoiding crowded stores, access to a wider selection of products, or simply to shop in the privacy of your own home.

However, shopping online also includes taking some risks. This activity requires you to share personal and financial information. Some online stores make no efforts to protect your information, while others are nothing more than scams in disguise.

Fortunately, you can mitigate the threats to your financial safety and still take advantage of the internet to do your shopping.

Follow these tips to feel secure while shopping online:

  1. Before you shop, ensure that your anti-virus software is up to date. Run a virus scan to make certain that there are no keyloggers or other malware lurking around in your computer, waiting for you to enter your payment information somewhere.

  2. Shop on the sites of major retailers. The safest way to shop online is to only trust major retailers and avoid lesser-known sites.
    • Double-check the URLs and security certificates of the sites you shop on to determine if you’re on an official site and not a copy designed to steal your information.
    • If you want to shop at a lesser-known retailer, take the time to do some research on this seller. How long have they been in business? What are the details of the website they’re using? Can you find reviews from other shoppers?
    • Make a list of shopping sites you trust and would order from again.

  3. Share only necessary information. A shopping website needs to know your name, address, and payment information. Asking for any additional information such as your birthday or your Social Security Number should be a red flag.
    • Do not provide more information via email if you are prompted to do so, since this is very likely a scam.

  4. Choose your safest available payment method. Some types of payments are safer than others:
    • Avoid using a debit card. Someone could quickly empty your bank account by stealing this card number.
    • Use a credit card if possible. Most credit cards have a daily limit on the amount of purchases that can be charged to the card. Plus, you can dispute a purchase you didn’t make. Check your statements regularly to ensure your card number hasn’t been stolen.
    • Gift cards are an even safer alternative. You can purchase gift cards through most major retailers. Even if someone were to steal your payment information, they could only access the funds that are on this card. Avoid buying gift cards on auction sites since scammers sometimes sell cards with no funds left.

  5. Beware of deals that could be a scam. Shopping around to find low prices is very easy but some deals are too good to be true. Use your common sense. It’s worth it to spend a little more on a purchase if you know you can trust the retailer instead of taking a risk.

  6. Print out your purchase details. Keep a confirmation of the order and receipt. Take a screenshot of your receipt page and check your email for confirmation of the order, your receipt, and information regarding shipment of your purchase.

  7. Safeguard your packages. Packages are often stolen, especially packages with the logo of a well-known online retailer. Use tracking to determine when your order will arrive and ask a trustworthy neighbor to keep an eye out for your package.
    • Consider investing in a large mailbox that can be locked if you often shop online.

  8. Act quickly if something goes awry. If you believe you’ve been scammed or that your information has been stolen, take immediate action to protect your financial accounts. Most accounts have limits on your liability if you discover and report fraud or errors quickly.

Taking advantage of the great deals you can find online is being a smart shopper! You can shop with confidence by keeping these tips in mind.

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