6 Tips for Shopping Online

  • A legitimate website should never ask (nor should you volunteer) more personal information than required
  • Never pull out credit card info using public internet.
  • True free shipping has no minimum price. Free shipping at a price point forces shoppers to buy more for eligibility.

The online shopping experience is a profitable venture for businesses to make money. It’s equally profitable for users because they can discover the best deals without leaving home and get must-have items delivered to your door. While businesses will do their part to make online shopping fun and safe, users must rely on common sense to get the best deal without getting scammed. Six tricks will get users started on the path toward savvy shopping.

Trusted websites encrypt data using a green padlock and/or the word ‘secure’ on the address bar. The address begins with https:// instead of http://.

Scam Alert

Phishing, ransomware-loving, non-delivery, non-payment, and emails from legitimate-looking websites are five of many scam activities out there, so take precaution immediately. First, a legitimate website should never ask (nor should you volunteer) more personal information than required. Required info is the name, address, email address, phone number, and payment information. Second, never click on an email link from a legitimate-looking email message no matter how urgent the letter sounds. Third, don’t connect to a shopping site via social media or untrustworthy apps. Additionally, keep online purchase receipts in case of scam activity.

Watch Out for Hotspots

Wireless internet from a business is free to the public, and anyone can use it, including scammers. Never shop online or use a credit card while using a public computer or free public internet access. There’s no guarantee the internet is password and encryption protected. If you must, use a smartphone app or a browser’s incognito mode to visit secure websites with your payment information saved to the site. Never pull out credit card info using public internet. Better yet, remember the credit card number and pin to avoid snoopers memorizing, photographing, or videotaping your credit card information.

Familiar Faces

Begin by going to familiar shopping websites. Those are the websites you visit frequently. You should know them well enough to type in their URL on the address bar, and you should do that often. Trusted websites encrypt data using a green padlock and/or the word ‘secure’ on the address bar. The address begins with https:// instead of http://. Spelling and grammar on the site are flawless. Familiar websites have a physical address and contact information too. Furthermore, these sites keep membership account information secure (with the user’s tough-to-crack password) and offer shipping tracking information to learn when packages arrive.

Never click on an email link from a legitimate-looking email message no matter how urgent the letter sounds.

Use Safe Payment Methods

Credit cards, PayPal, and mobile payments are the best payment methods. Credit card offer fraud protection, a card verification value number, and identity theft protection among other security features. Mobile pay and PayPal offer security verification and authentication codes to protect data and finances. Gift cards are an adequate substitute as long as users buy it from a brick-and-mortar location and use it at a secure website. Debit card payments are dangerous because it’s a direct link to your bank account, and there are no protections to guard the account. Wire transfer and bank transfer payments channel suspicious activity.

Is it a Steal?

Jaw-dropping deals online are too good to pass up. Before you buy on impulse, compare the item on other websites to see if the deal is worthwhile. If you decide to add the deal to the shopping cart, review it carefully. Is it still a steal once stores add shipping and sales tax? Will a coupon code discount aid in price reduction? Next, consider free shipping. True free shipping has no minimum price. Free shipping at a price point forces shoppers to buy more for eligibility. Last, consider returns. Is the return policy simple or complex?

Review Statements Often

Recent credit card data breaches should give users pause about protecting their financial records. Check credit card statements, free credit reports, bank account statements, online/mobile banking accounts, and PayPal type accounts for frequent activity. Contact the people with the report or statement along with the company who charged the account about the suspicious charge. If you wait too long, the financial institution will force you to pay the fraudulent bill. Proactive research and responsive action are the way to defeat scammers.

Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, special occasion, or just because, treat online shopping like brick-and-mortar shopping. Carry those buyer instincts (for sales) and guarded behavior (protect finances) to the web. Your wallet will thank you.

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Austin W

My name is Austin, a public relations specialist. I graduated with a degree in Business and Marketing from the University of Memphis.

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