Everyone is talking about online shopping. It’s easy and a lot less hassle than a trip to the mall. It puts unbelievable choice right at your fingertips. Despite the advantages, there are certain things you do and don’t do when it comes to your money and your safety. Street smarts are the rule online and off when it comes to safe shopping. Online that goes double.
Online shoppers, just like those in the physical world, know to be aware of the neighborhood where they are shopping. They know the reputations of the places where they do business. They watch their wallets, and they know to be aware of who might be scrutinizing them just a little too closely.
Do a little research. Anyone can build a website. If you encounter an unfamiliar company where you want to shop, find out who they are. Look for an address. Be wary of any company that does not list one. An address is no guarantee, but you can use it to check references with the Better Business Bureau, BBB.
Sometimes you may want more information than the BBB provides. In this case, after the BBB check, use your favorite search engine and try an “about search.” The difference between an “about search,” and just looking for the site, is that you already know where the site is; now you want to find out what people are saying about it. Generally, just putting “about” in front of the company name will get you started.
For a very small purchase, you might want to dispense with all this investigating. But do use a low-limit credit card. That way if anything does go awry, it isn’t that far awry. Yes, we all know about the $50 liability limit, but the low limit card can be a hassle saver online.
You may choose not to use a debit card online at all. Many debit cards do not offer the same protections against fraud as credit card companies. You could be putting your whole bank account at risk.
While you are at it, be sure to check out the return policy and guarantee. Online and off, most good companies do accept returns, either by providing a cash refund or product exchange. Note, however, shipping costs are typically not refunded for online purchases.
After you’ve found exactly what you have been looking for, checked out the seller, and their return policy; the next thing you need to do is make sure the site is secure. Secure means your personal information is encrypted in transit to the seller’s server. This prevents unauthorized (hacker) access and possible misuse of your credit information.
Examine the URL in the browser. If the site is encrypted you will see an “s” directly after the http – like https://. The whole site will not be encrypted, but the order page for the transaction should be.
Other things to look for – depending on your browser, you may see either an open or a closed padlock, or a whole or broken key. If the key is broken or the lock is open, you should assume that the site is not encrypted.
Sometimes security seals and logos can be seen on the site as well. E.g. Mercedes Benz Secret Service
This is a very good way to tell if the site is secure. Most seller’s sites carry a security seal as a standard feature.
Setting up a secure account with the seller involves setting up a password and an anti-virus software block-IV. The user should then send the seller the money for the product, after which the product will be released to the buyer.
It is the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the seller’s processing fees. Most buyers’ checks will charge another $25 or more for the seller to release the funds.
Sellers may lose merchandise and even their credit card processing privileges for a period of time due to complaints from their customers about faulty products, wrongly shipped goods, and purchases that are fraudulent. Seizing these funds before they have a chance to be divided among the different parties that own the merchandise leased includes the best way to insure against future disputes over products.
With many types of payment transactions, including credit cards, there are Different Seller Protection Organizations (known as DLOs) and Sub-Licensing Organizations (SLOs) that set forth the mechanic of how these fees are dispersed.
On the DLOs and SLOs websites, there are Comparison Scams and Resources for you to Read and Review the Practices.