How to safely shop on-line

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Image and article by Kathleen Riley-Daniels

Online shopping is like Las Vegas – always open. The Internet offers up stores from around the world at your fingertips, 24-hours a day, 7-days a weeks, 365-days a year. You can order pet supplies, art work, exotic spices, handcrafted goods and so much more. Online shopping lets you take advantage of lack of brick-and-mortar with greater savings, sometimes heavily discounted pricing and safe payment methods. It really does bring the world right into your family room.

When you are shopping online, there are some simple precautions that will help keep your online shopping experience safe and happy.

  • Use a Secure Web Browser – They scramble or “encrypt” your purchase information and make it so just you and the vendor can read it. Online storefronts can often tell if your browser is or is not secure and will help you buy safely. Do NOT order from online stores that do not provide secured transactions.
  • Keep Records – Most online stores will email you confirmation of your order, print the confirmation out and save them to compare what you order to what you receive and to verify credit / debit card charges.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements – look for errors and purchases you did not make. If you do find mistakes, contact your credit card company or bank immediately. In case you were wondering, yes, it is safe to order online with a debit card.
  • Check the online store’s policies – Check the disclosures about the web site’s security, refund and return policies, and statements about how the web site will use your personal information. It is usually a good idea to look at the “About” pages and “FAQ” pages to learn a bit more about the company you are buying from. If a web store says nothing about protecting your privacy, you may want to shop somewhere else.

Protect Your Identity

  • Never share or tell your password – this tip applies to anyone, not even your Internet service provider (ISP). The only time you should ever need to use a password is to gain access to a site. No legitimate service will ever ask you for your password.
  • Be mindful of what you download – Resist the temptation to  download files, run programs or view graphics sent to you by strangers, and you may want to be wary of things coming from your friends too – sometimes their accounts have been hacked and a virus could be sent to you. Beware of clicking on URL “links” sent to you in email by people you do not know.
  • Really Important - Keep your personal information private! Unless you know the people asking and why they are asking for it, never tell anyone your address, telephone number, Social Security number, email address or passwords. Most tasks are able to be accomplished without sharing any of this information, and you’ll want to be sure the people asking have a really legitimate reason for needing it.


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