Safe Online Shopping

Living on Credit Cards

Online shopping is fun, convenient, and gives you access to many more options than the stores close to your home.  While I never shopped online much in high school I’ve found that while at college, online shopping is an easy way to get my retail fix without the hassle of leaving campus and the limits of the local malls.  However, with this activity comes potential risk.  Identity theft and false or unethical retailers are real problems that you need to be aware of.  This doesn’t mean you should completely avoid online shopping, but it does mean that you should be careful.

Be Cautious

Like in so many other situations, the basic guideline to follow for online shopping is to trust your instincts.  If a site seems questionable or is offering deals you can’t believe—don’t.  Use caution the first time you buy from a site. If a site asks you for too much personal information, such as a phone number or social security number, proceed with caution. Research the site online, check the Better Business Bureau and other review sites to make sure the site is legitimate, and make sure you are entering your information on a safe computer. Don’t enter your payment information into a public computer in case it gets stored, and be careful which wireless connection you are using to the send the payment. To ensure your wireless connection is secure, be sure to password protect it to safeguard you from hackers.

It’s also important to use the securest form of payment possible.  PayPal accounts are free to create and very safe.  PayPal prevents you from having to enter personal information every time you buy online.  If you don’t have a PayPal or can’t use one on the site, use a credit card—not a debit card.  If something goes wrong, your money is more protected and you have a much better chance of getting your money returned if you used a credit card.  Finally, make sure your internet connection is secure before you order.  If your signal is weak and you need to reload the page, you may end up being charged twice for your purchase.

Do Your Research

Just like you wouldn’t walk into a store and buy something without looking it over or checking the price tag, don’t rush into an online purchase.  One of the biggest benefits of shopping online is the ability to quickly compare prices across sites.  Don’t forget to take into account the costs of shipping and handling as well.  Spending just a few minutes comparing prices can save you lots.  Also, email newsletters frequently offer discount codes or online coupons.  Sign up for the site’s emails before you buy (you can always unsubscribe) and save!  Make sure you review the company’s privacy and return policies as well.  Some sites, like Zappos, offer free returns and free shipping, while others will charge you for both.

Taking the time to be cautious and research the site before you buy will make online shopping a fun, pain-free, and enjoyable experience.  Happy Shopping!