While online shopping is a relatively new practice, the number of people using this convenient way to shop is growing tremendously. Many of the internet users today have embraced online shopping because they say it is convenient and a time-saver. 66% of online Americans say they have purchased at least one product online and revenue from online shopping jumped fivefold from 2000 to 2008.
However, with this convenience comes potential dangers and possible fraud. There are several great practices that you can employ to keep your online shopping safe and secure.
The Basics – Always have a reliable and reputable anti-virus program installed on your computer.
The Sites – Keep your shopping limited to well-known and secure sites. Is there a closed padlock on the browser’s status bar? Does the Web site’s address (URL) change to shttp or https when you are asked to provide payment information? If so, you know the vendor has secured their payment process.
Keep your passwords to shopping sites secure and ensure they are strong passwords (add capitals, numbers and special characters).
Do a little research on the website where you plan to make your purchase. There are several websites, such as epinions.com, where online shoppers rate individual online stores.
- Email Deals – Beware of emails you receive from unknown online stores offering deals or sales on their merchandise or asking for personal information. Identity thieves send massive numbers of e-mails to Internet users that ask them to update the account information for their banks, credit cards, online payment service, or popular shopping sites. Never click on the links inside the emails or give out your personal information. Legitimate sites will never ask you for your personal information this way.
- Payment – Know the safest ways to pay for merchandise online. Many people mistakenly think that checks or money orders are the safest way to purchase online. In truth, credit cards are your best bet.
- Third-Party Payment Services – Now that eBay is such a big name in online auction shopping, payment services such as PayPal are a great, safe way to shop online. Services like PayPal allow you to fund an online account and make payments from that account without exposing your real credit card or bank account information. PayPal fraud protection is different from your credit card – you need to contact them within 30 days to dispute a purchase. However, you can still go back to the credit card you set up with them as well.
- Debit Cards – Many people feel good about using their Debit Card as opposed to racking up charges on their credit cards. However, when it comes to fraud, debit cards fall far behind credit cards. That’s because your liability limit under federal law increases the longer you wait to report any unauthorized activity. Be sure to check with your financial institution for their policies on fraud protection.
- Credit Cards – many credit card companies have $0 liability policies. This means you won’t be held accountable for any fraudulent purchases. You can dispute purchases that were either made without your consent or where the goods don’t match the descriptions. You’ll need to check with your credit card company for the specific steps to dispute a purchase and their policy on fraudulent purchases.
Just follow these tips to keep yourself safe and secure while shopping for those great online deals!