Protecting your purchase and identity when online shopping
11 Ways to Protect Your Online Purchase
by Joanne Guidoccio
|Will You Get Better Deals Shopping Online or In a Store?|
Online shopping is quick, easy, and convenient. You can shop in your pajamas at all hours of the day and night without worrying about parking, over-crowded malls, and long lines at the checkout, but all this convenience can come at a price. Internet sales scams are among the fastest category of consumer complaints.
Consider the following tips:
- Whenever possible, buy from sites you know. If you are buying from an unfamiliar site, research it very carefully before placing an order. Read the terms and conditions on the site. Is the information detailed and complete enough for you to understand the terms of sale?
- Does the site use encryption technology that scrambles sensitive information such as your credit card number? If the website address begins with https://, the "s" indicates a secure site. Alternatively, the merchant will indicate the site is safe by an icon (lock or key) somewhere on the outer edge of the browser window. The lock should be locked and the key unbroken.
- Use a credit card (not a debit card or check) to make online purchases. If something goes wrong with the transaction, you can have the charges reversed. You can also stop payment if you are dissatisfied with the item purchased. A debit card does not offer this protection, and a personal check could be an open invitation to identity theft since it contains your bank account number and home address.
- Use different passwords for different websites.
- Keep all receipts. Whenever you complete an online purchase, print and save the confirmation page.
- Use your home internet, not free Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop.
- Provide only the basic information that is marked with an asterisk. Do not volunteer your Social Security Number, date of birth, or other personal information.
- Do not buy from any online merchants who try to rush you into a decision or ask for credit card information before allowing you to enter the site.
- Be wary of vendors who use "browser traps." Often, these traps take over a site and disable the "back" button on your browser. Other traps will open new windows each time you try to close one. Do not make a purchase to get out of the trap.
- When buying tickets and family passes to amusement parks, tourist attractions and other events, check for any expiration dates. Many of those special deals apply only to a short window of time.
- Be careful when dealing with online vendors outside the United States. Since our consumer protection laws and regulations do not apply to them, it may be difficult to resolve potential conflicts. When calculating the final price, remember to factor in shipping and handling, taxes, duty and currency conversion. The charge on your credit card will likely be different from the quoted price. Is it still a bargain?
Updated December 2013
For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma. Visit her website at JoanneGuidoccio.com.
Take the Next Step:
- For more on online shopping, please visit The TDS library.
- Do you struggle to get ahead financially? Then you'll want to subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.
Debt from my past is preventing me from saving for my future! Tell us: Yes, debt is hindering my ability to save and I could use help dealing with it! or No, debt is not a problem but I am trying to get ahead financially!
More Money Tips & Tools
- 5 low-risk ways to earn higher interest now
- 10 easy ways to save money for the holidays
- 7 IRA withdrawals that don't trigger a penalty
- 4 secrets to maximize your credit card rewards
- Mutual funds for the little guy
- Turning your hobby into extra income
- Positioning yourself for career advancement
- This week's Readers' Tips