Online shopping can bring the convenience of buying to your home. It lets you spare yourself the hassle of getting dressed, using gas in your car, finding parking, trudging up and down through crowded aisles and finally, standing in line to pay. But purchasing through a website brings its own set of challenges. Here are five smart tips to ensure your Internet shopping is fun, efficient and safe.
Check the rep
Before browsing a website, it’s always a good idea to check its online reputation on a third-party website such as Yelp. Be sure to read any comments left by previous users to give you an idea of the issues you may encounter. Be aware that any brand can use reputable sites, such as eBay or Amazon, for their businesses. Double-check the source of the product and check out their reviews as well. Look at the site FAQ for their guarantees, warranties and any problem-solving procedures.
Lock it up
To prevent your personal information or credit card details from being stolen, ensure that the site uses secure connections. Technology like SSL (Secure Socket Layer) will protect your information by ensuring that any data you enter is encrypted during the transaction. To confirm that you have this connection, look for an “https” at the beginning of your address bar or a little lock icon. Avoid buying from sites that do not contain these security measures.
Use a strong password
Guessing your password is often how identity thieves break into online accounts, so make sure that you use a strong password for each site. Avoid using dictionary words or important dates – password-cracking programs can quickly and easily determine those by simply running through millions of combinations. Try to use at least eight characters that are a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Or better yet, use a password manager program that generates, remembers and automatically fills in a more secure combination.
Check out all the costs
If you buy an item at a store, you usually just pay for the price of the item plus any sales tax. Online purchases incur such costs but can also include charges for handling, shipping, gift boxes and insurance options. You may even be able to choose different shipping methods that can affect the charges as well as the shipping time. It’s always a good idea to check your order summary carefully for hidden costs before placing the order.
Never send cash, which can be stolen, or a personal cheque, which forces you to wait until the check clears before your goods are shipped. Rely on credit cards instead, which can refund your purchase if you are dissatisfied with a merchant. Also look for a payment seal of approval like VeriSign or DigiCert for added confirmation of security.
Online shopping can be a fun and stress-free experience once you’re comfortable with the security steps you should be taking online. Online shopping lets you find great deals without leaving the comfort of your own home – just make sure you stay safe if you indulge in this type of shopping spree.