The Holiday Season is upon us, along with many great shopping deals. Online shopping has become increasingly popular, especially for those of us who lead busy lives and are not particularly fond of running around shopping malls.
Shopping online is fast, convenient and opens up a whole new world of products and services. Yet, just like shopping in traditional retail stores, you need to be a smart consumer. Make the most of your cyber shopping experience with these tips for protecting your privacy, finding the best deals and dealing with unsatisfactory purchases.
When shopping on the Internet, exercise the same care and judgment that you would at the mall. Get the company’s name, address and phone number and contact the Better Business Bureau for a report. Consider dealing only with vendors which clearly state their shipping, return and privacy policies. Look for affiliation with a seal or certification program such as Gomez, BizRate, WebAssured or BBBOnLine.
11 tips for staying safe online while knocking out that holiday shopping list:
1. Use Familiar Web Sites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine.
2. Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least.
3. Don’t Tell All
No online shopping store is going to need your social security number or your birthday to do business.
4. Check Statements
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts!
5. Inoculate Your PC
Bad-guys don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against such Trojan horse malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.
6. Use Strong Passwords
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it’s never more important than when banking and shopping.
7. Think Mobile
The NRF did a survey that also predicts that 25 percent of adults will do their online shopping via their smartphones.
8. Stay at Home
Do we really have to tell you it’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases? Hopefully not. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking e-mail.
9. Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll be on a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
10. Count the Cards
Gift Cards are the most requested holiday gift every year, and this year will be no exception. Stick to the source when you buy one; scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them upon arrival.
11. Know What’s Too Good to Be True
McAfee compiled a list of scams to look for and one of them is the offer of a free product with purchase, in particular the iPad (a very coveted gadget this holiday) or even holiday job offers.