Like many consumers, you’ve increasingly been using the Internet to find and make purchases. Online shopping continues to outpace traditional shopping in growth, as consumers embrace the easy price comparisons, the free or reduced shipping and the great customer service of many online destinations.
Shopping online does have its pitfalls, particularly when visitors find a website that is not easily recognizable, perhaps one that is based overseas or simply has not taken the right security precautions. Read on and we will look at seven smart online shopping tips for you to consider as you navigate the Internet for the best deals.
1. Basic security. Shopping online is easy. In some cases it is too easy. Every site you deal with should be secured, where your personal information is not easily found and shared elsewhere. A site with a “secure” sockets layer” or SSL encryption in easy to find as it adds an “s” to the http: part of the web address rendering https. Also, when you look at lower corner or bottom of the page, you will find a closed or locked padlock. Those two things ensure that a site is safe for your use.
2. Your information. At checkout, there is certain information about you that a company will want and need. That information will include your name and address, a contact phone number and your credit card information. What it must NEVER include is your Social Security Number, as that 9-digit number can quickly expose you to identity theft and is information no retailer ever needs. Your birth date information is not important to retailers either and should not be shared.
3. Monthly statements. Do not wait until your monthly statements arrive to check up on your purchases. Log on to your sites throughout the month to verify your purchases. If you find anything out of the ordinary, such as an unauthorized purchase, contact your credit card provider immediately. The sooner that you identify unauthorized transactions and tell your provider, the more likely you’ll get a handle on possible identify theft before it spins out of control.
4. Strong passwords. You’re active online, but are your passwords strong or are they easy to crack? You may think that your information is behind an impenetrable fortress, but crooks have a way of finding out more about you and keying in certain words to find your password. Your cat’s name is easy to discover and even when you add a few numbers after it, crooks can quickly break that code. Instead, use difficult passwords that even you have difficulty remembering it. Start off a password with a raised letter and mix it with numbers and letters, and if allowed, symbols. Go long, too — 12 characters are much more difficult to crack than 8 or fewer.
5. Security updates. Your personal computer can expose your information for the entire world to see. Why open yourself to possible hacking when downloading security software including an anti-virus program can offer excellent protection? You will want a program that tosses trojans, squishes worms and gives bots the boot. Make sure that your program is updated too — renew your subscription before it runs out.
6. Your Wi-Fi. Lots of people connect to the Internet by way of a wi-fi. Your system should be private, not allowing anyone to access your information. Secure your network today and avoid using unknown public networks to make purchases. When shopping, do it at home or at the very least through a secured network at your hotel or popular coffee shop.
7. Scam alerts. Expect that scam artists will be diligently at work to find different ways to fool you. If they cannot entice you through email or a web page pop up, expect even more sophisticated methods to be employed. These include a phone call from a supposed shopping site explaining to you that your order did not go through. This individual may attempt to get more information about you that can compromise your security, so do not part with those details. Also, any deal that looks too good to be true is probably just that: an empty come-on, one to be avoided at all costs.
Take your time when shopping online. If you rush through a purchase, you are much more likely to make a mistake such as choosing the wrong winter scarves or, worse, expose yourself to a problem. If you are scammed, notify your local police and file a report.