Shop Safely and Securely Online

Edited by Ash0hley, Eng, Anonymous, Doug Collins

Considering the first website was launched less than three decades ago, it's amazing what we can accomplish on the internet today. From endless information on countless topics to keeping up with family and friends in ways never before imagined; we have endless knowledge at our fingertips. However, along with all of the good that the internet has brought, it has also brought some problems, especially when it comes to money. Identity theft, credit card fraud, and counterfeit goods are among a few things to worry about when shopping online. In this article, I'll discuss what to look for if you're considering making an online purchase, to keep yourself and your money as safe as possible.

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The Convenience of Shopping Online

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    You don't have to leave your home.
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    No pushing around shopping carts for hours on end!
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    1. For me, the best part about shopping online is that I don't have to drag my young children to the store with me. Usually, they can only tolerate about 20 minutes of being out and about before the annoyance sets in. Ordering some things online allows me to make fewer trips into town, making for much happier children (and a much happier mom, too).
    2. When I want to purchase a big item, like a treadmill, dresser, or washing machine, ordering online is a must. These things are heavy, and with my husband being out of town working much of the time, some are impossible for me to lift on my own.
    3. Another factor is space. I own a truck, but many people do not. It may not be possible for some people to transport large items. That's where shopping online comes in handy.
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    There is a countless selection of products to choose from.
    The internet is full of all types of products up for purchase. From gourmet food to retro toys, you can find just about anything you're searching for on the internet. In my area, it's hard to find some of the ethnic foods I grew up eating, such as plantain chips. I like to order these online from time to time, just to reminisce.
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    Easy access to reviews.
    Now as far as reviews go; with the good, comes the bad. You have to be careful when looking through reviews, and remember that some of them may be fake. Be critical. If the review seems too good to be true, it probably is. When I look through reviews, I will view the lowest ratings first. Then I will view mid-grade ratings. That way, I am looking at the problems that the product may or may not have, and the statements of people who are critically reviewing it. Also, some people will review right after receiving the product. Ignore these reviews, as chances are, they haven't used the product enough to review it accurately.
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    You can save time and money.
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    For me, a trip into town is quite the task. I live 20 miles away from the nearest store. I love being out here in the woods. It's quiet and peaceful here, but not so convenient. Ordering certain things online helps to make it more convenient. Not only does it save time, but gas too! A trip into town can cost close to $20 in gas alone. Shipping is significantly less than that, or free! Not to mention, you can find great deals online for the things you already buy. For example, I use Amazon Subscribe & Save. If you add five or more things to your Subscribe & Save account, you save 15% on every item! I use it to buy items that I'll always need to buy. These are things like toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, baby wipes, laundry detergent, and toothbrushes. You can set these subscriptions to ship every one to six months. I find that setting the subscriptions to two months works out great for our family. There are many other companies who offer subscriptions as well.
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    The internet is always open.
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    Most stores close in the evening, and for some people, it may be difficult to get there before they close. It may not coincide with their work schedule or some similar situation. But the internet is open 24/7. You may have to wait 1-14 days for your item, depending on the shipping speed you choose, but your item will arrive, at no inconvenience to you.
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The Inconveniences of Shopping Online

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    Counterfeit products.
    This is the most common problem with buying online. I have been deceived a few times myself. There are a few things you can do to make sure you aren't a victim of counterfeiting. You can guess that the item may be counterfeit if any of these three things apply:
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    1. It is not being sold by the person who manufactures the product. Often, products sold by third parties may be counterfeit. Watch for this especially on websites like Amazon, eBay, and Newegg, which are composed mostly of third party sellers.
    2. It is significantly cheaper than the real product. If the price is under 75% of the normal retail price of the product, you can guess that it's likely fake. Rarely will someone make a counterfeit and try to sell it for the same price as the original product.
    3. The reviews say it's fake! A lot of the time, the truth is in the reviews. I can't prove it, but I believe that most of the five-star reviews of some products are fake. However, no one will fake a low rating. So, read the low ratings. If you find even ONE that says the product is counterfeit, move on. Try another retailer.
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    Inability to sample the product.
    When buying things like clothing online, you have to make a guess at the proper size. Fortunately, most of the websites that sell clothing allow returns or exchanges for unused clothes. Shipping charges may or may not be at the expense of the customer. Be sure to check their policies before ordering clothing from an online website. Additionally, when buying pieces of furniture, you can't test them for comfort. But again, you can rely on the reviews for this.
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    Identity theft.
    This is one of the scariest things about ordering online. Identity theft is no joke. It can ruin a person's life. Credit card fraud is a form of identity theft, too. But, there are ways to protect yourself from this, and prevent it from ever happening to you, which I'll explain further in the next section.
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    Your items might be broken, or dead on arrival.
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    Some more fragile products can be damaged during shipping. It's good to make sure the retailer will cover this expense if it happens to you. I don't enjoy paying to have an item shipped back because it is broken. It's an unnecessary expense, and a waste of time in my opinion. Some online retailers, like Amazon or Walmart for instance, guarantee the product will arrive safely and whole. In most cases, if it doesn't, they will refund the cost, or exchange the product. Web sites that have guarantees like this are the ones that I enjoy buying from. I once had a package stolen from my front porch. Amazon replaced it, free of charge, no questions asked (although they wouldn't deliver if I weren't home for the next few packages I received).
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    You'll have to wait to use your product.
    Unlike when you purchase something from a store, you will have to wait for your product to arrive before you can use it. This may not be convenient for some people or with some products. Thankfully, these days, with the low cost of shipping from most retailers, second or third-day shipments won't break your piggy bank.
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How Can I Shop Safely Online?

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    Make use of companies designed to keep your information private when shopping online.
    There are many companies who provide alternate ways to purchase online so that you won't need to give out your credit or debit card number to strangers. Here are a few of them.
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    1. PayPal allows you to add your bank account and credit cards directly to your account.
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      When you make a purchase through PayPal, the retailer will only receive your money and your email address. No personal information is given, making your online experience much safer. I've also noticed in the past few months that some brick and mortar stores are accepting PayPal as well, which makes buying in-store even safer. Additionally, if you pay for a product online and don't receive it, you have the option of pulling your payment back. Often, this will void your PayPal account from making further purchases. Try to resolve all disputes with the seller before utilizing this option. It should be seen as a last resort. If you need help creating a PayPal account, check out this article on How to [Open a PayPal Account]
    2. Google Wallet, which used to be named Google Checkout, is another company that can protect your identity when shopping both in stores and online.
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      They offer services such as linking your bank account and credit cards. One of the features that I like is their Google Wallet card. It's a debit MasterCard that holds your balance. It can be used at any location that accepts MasterCard. If you own an NFC phone or device, you can also use Tap and Pay. With this option, you simply hold your phone over the NFC receiver during checkout in a store, and you choose the payment option on your account that you would like it to use.
    3. Authorize.net is a little different. This one is geared more toward the sellers or online retailers. You can send and receive money. It's also a good option for paying employees. With this program, you can sync your statements to QuickBooks, cutting out some extra work for those who use it. However, an account with them is not free. You must pay a subscription to have a merchant account with Authorize.net.
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    Look at the website.
    It's incredible what you can find out just by browsing the website.  
    1. First, how did you find the website? If you saw it in a pop-up ad, close it immediately. It's more than likely unsafe. It's not worth the risk.
    2. Next, examine the website. Does it look legitimate? Check to see if the company has a physical address and contact numbers. This will help to weed out the fraudulent websites.
    3. Is the website secure?
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      To find this out, there will often be a padlock or a key either in the address bar or at the bottom of the window. When it comes time to check out, the web address should read "https://". For more information on secure websites and valid certificates, visit US-CERT. They can help you determine the validity of a given website.
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  3. 3
    Read the fine print!!!
    Make sure that before you purchase anything from a new online retailer, you read all of the fine print. It may be tedious, but it can prevent so many problems, such as:  
    1. Recurring charges. My husband was once deceived by an online retailer selling accessories. In the fine print at checkout, it said that if a pair of sunglasses is purchased one time, then you agree to receive recurring shipments of sunglasses each month at the price of $19.95 per month. We had to cancel his debit card, as there was no way to get in touch with the company. This is called a recurring charge. Some legitimate websites use this, such as Netflix or Lucky Vitamin. But if they do not CLEARLY ANNOUNCE that the charge is recurring, avoid the website completely. They are most likely trying to pull a fast one.
    2. Another thing to watch for is cancellation fees. Some companies will offer cheap or free subscriptions, with a large cancellation fee. Again, you will find this written in fine print. These cancellation fees can sometimes be massive, and because you agreed to it at checkout, you are held to it by law. You must pay it. It's very important to read the fine print.
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  4. 4
    Check with the BBB.
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    The Better Business Bureau contains a vast collection of retailers, both online and physical. Consumers are free to report ANYTHING to this website. Retailers are not given the rights to remove a complaint. However, they can solve a complaint. These will be marked as solved, but only once the customer who wrote the review has agreed to it. Always check the BBB when ordering from a new place.
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  5. 5
    Only use online retailers that you're SURE are safe.
    Shopping at popular online venues can protect you from the dangers of shopping online. InternetRetailer.com offers a list of the top 500 online retailers for various countries. These are all safe to buy from.
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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's easy to prevent having your identity or credit card information stolen, but much more difficult to restore it, once compromised. Be sure to take precautions when making purchases online. The repercussions of careless online shopping can be profound. If you follow the tips in this article, you can be sure to keep your identity and your money safe while enjoying the benefits and convenience of shopping online.

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Ash0hley
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Categories : Browser

Recent edits by: Anonymous, Eng, Ash0hley

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