Shop Safely and Securely Online
Edited by Ash0hley, Eng, 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.
The Convenience of Shopping Online
- 1You don't have to leave your home.Advertisement
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 2There 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.Advertisement
- 3Easy 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.
- 4You can save time and money.
- 5The internet is always open.
The Inconveniences of Shopping Online
- 1Counterfeit 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:Advertisement
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 2Inability 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.
- 3Identity 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.
- 4Your items might be broken, or dead on arrival.
- 5You'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.
How Can I Shop Safely Online?
- 1Make 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.
- PayPal allows you to add your bank account and credit cards directly to your account.
- Google Wallet, which used to be named Google Checkout, is another company that can protect your identity when shopping both in stores and online.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Is the website secure? US-CERT. They can help you determine the validity of a given website.
- 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.
- 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.
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.