Shopping on the Internet can be fun, fast, and sometimes cheaper. It also comes with many other benefits. Many retailers are only present on the Internet or provide special products and deals on their websites. Shopping online also allows you to compare many different prices and products before you make a purchase. Online product reviews may assist in your decision as well. With all of the benefits that online shopping provides, there are also some hazards that you should be careful to avoid.
Here a few tips on staying "Cyber Safe" while shopping with online retailers:
- Make sure your computer and Internet browser security features are installed and contain the most current updates.
- Avoid unsolicited e-mails, text messages, and pop-up advertisements.
- Only shop on secured sites-look for websites that begin with "https" and/or display a small padlock in the bottom right corner of the site or in the address bar at the top.
- Don't use the same password on every shopping website-and the passwords you do use should not be simple numbers in sequences, birthdays, pet names, etc.
- Shop with online merchants you are familiar with or whose reputation you can readily determine.
- At a minimum, do some basic research to find out if the business is licensed and verify the company history with the Better Business Bureau.
- Confirm a working customer service number you can contact if you have further questions or product issues.
- Be suspicious of websites offering consumer goods at unbelievably low prices, especially on popular items such as brand name electronics. These sites may be trying to collect your personal information or actually be selling knock-off or counterfeit products, or real products that have been damaged, returned, and refurbished. Best advice-if a deal just sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Be wary of "free" gift card offers, especially through Facebook and other social media sites. You usually have to sign up with participating merchants and that means providing valuable personal and financial information to unscrupulous vendors.
- Make your online purchases with a credit card-federal law limits your exposure to $50 if your credit card is used improperly. Plus, you can charge back any purchases you think were fraudulent. Avoid companies that require less conventional forms of payment, such as money orders, electronic funds transfers, money transmitters (Western Union/MoneyGram), or the purchase of prepaid payment devices.