I have become an advocate of shopping online. I have been shopping this way for a number of years now. Like a lot of people, I had to get rid of my fear of credit card theft. Thus far I have found online shopping to be safe and secure. I even pay my bills online. However, I am ever vigilant and keep my eyes open for an e-mail that looks or 'feels' suspicious. When in doubt do not open the e-mail, call the stores 800 number or sign in at the store in question before conducting your business.
Some Tips for Safe Virtual Shopping:
- Use caution when buying from a site you have never heard of. If you are determined to buy from this merchant, perform an online search. If you cannot find evidence that they have been around for some time, think twice before making a purchase. Check out the return policy and check with the Better Business Bureau and other watchdog organizations.
- Shop by credit card only. Disputes are easier to handle if you have paid with plastic.
- Get yourself an e-mail address which will be used for online purchases only. You are less likely to delete important product information by mistake.
- Always read the small print when giving personal information. If you don't, you often give approval for the company to pass your personal information to interested third parties. This leads to unwanted e-mails, SPAM or telephone calls from strangers. Or you may be giving your o.k. to receive some unnecessary extra ‘benefit’ for a monthly fee that you neither want nor need.
- If you join a site to get member discounts, etc. you will be need an ID and a password. Save all of your shopping ID's and passwords online and keep them in one place. I keep mine in a yahoo folder titled 'Login Names'. You should also print a copy of the list and keep it in safe place. Again, read the small print, you may be charged if you have agreed to remain with site for a certain amount of time and you want to cancel before that agreed upon time ends.
- For easier shopping, bookmark or save your favorite stores. AOL makes it possible for its users to add these to a personal toolbar. You can store about 15 favorite places, surely more than enough space for your shopping sprees. Yahoo has folders which allow you to save links under a single subject, how about a folder labeled "My Stores"?
- Make it your business to get to know your stores e-address. When you shop online you receive a confirmation after the transaction is complete. You should save the transaction information in the appropriate bookmarked store.
- You cannot always to tell if you have received a real or bogus "Alert" e-mail from stores. If you are unsure, do not open the e-mail, instead log into the actual store site and check to see if you have any messages there. PayPal lets its customers know that it will only call them by their actual customer name, not 'Dear Customer' or 'Dear PayPal User'.
- Remember that shopping online can be safe and secure, but you must follow the same precautions you would use when brick and mortar shopping. For safety reasons, you would not make a purchase at your favorite store by credit card then toss the receipt away. Online shopping requires the same vigilance, save confirmation notices and numbers and sign out properly.
Be careful, shop wisely and you will enjoy shopping online. And if you are shopping online for holiday gifts, shop early so you won't be disappointed.