Online shopping is easy and efficient, and is becoming more and more of a go-to option for people. I recently was in need of a space heater and I was able to conduct all of the product research, comparison shopping, and complete the purchase online in the span of about two hours. No pouring over catalogs or wasting an entire day driving from store to store. I was able to get a high-quality ceramic heater that had a high safety rating and all the features I needed at a really good price. My online experience was typical of how many people do their shopping. But it did remind me of something I wanted to talk to my readers about: shopping safely online.
- Make sure that your computer (or phone) is up to date with its operating system, firewall, and virus software. It helps to run a virus scan regularly to be sure that you are virus free. The most secure shopping site in the world isn’t going to matter if you have a virus already. I can go into some good programs and the like if you’re interested in another post. If you’re sure that your device is clean and healthy, then read on:
- Next, check out your internet connection: be sure that it is secure. If you are out in public and you’re using a mobile hotspot or free wifi, anyone can see your connection. Think twice about putting your personal information out there. Having a strong password on your personal modem is a much more secure way to make purchases.
- Make sure you’re on the right site. If you’re typing the web address into your browser or if you’re clicking on a link from a search engine, verify that the store name is spelled correctly and that it is on the correct domain—in other words, if you’re shopping on Amazon, make sure that your browser says you are on amazon.com, and not ammazon.com or amazon.net. Don’t click on some random store link sent to you via email. Stick to sites that you know and trust.
- When you have to enter personal information on the site, be sure that the website address has a https: address. The “s” is for secure, as in secure sockets layer, which is a standard format for secure connections. It is usually accompanied by a closed padlock symbol. Some browsers will allow you to click on the lock so that you can get more information about the security measures being taken with your personal information. If you don’t see that “s” in the site address or see that locked padlock, leave the site and make your purchase elsewhere. Beware of any company who asks for extraneous personal information (your social security number or birthday, for example) or who asks for your credit card information or passwords via a non-secure connection such as email.
- Use a credit card or pay site like paypal whenever possible instead of entering bank information. It is much easier to get a credit card cancelled and have the charges reversed than it is to make money reappear that has already left your accounts. And be sure to check your statements when they arrive. You will be able to spot fraudulent charges much more quickly that way and have more time to dispute them.
- Be sure to find out what the store’s return policy is. Some places that also have brick-and-mortar stores will allow you to bring them in to return, others will only accept the returns when they have been pre-authorized and are in the original packaging. Knowing ahead of time what the procedure is if you do need to return your purchase for any reason will make things easier.
My ceramic heater arrived the other day and it works perfectly. I am incredibly happy with my purchase and knowing that I follow the above steps every time I buy something online allows me to feel safer making online purchases. Follow my tips and you will be much safer online as well.