7 Steps to Protect Yourself While Shopping Online

Online Shopping TipsShopping online is a pleasure. No traffic, no crowds, no searching for a parking spot. Just point, click, done.

So it’s little surprise that online retail sales reached a robust $263 billion in 2013. Or that skyrocketing growth is in the online shopping forecast – sales are expected to reach $370 billion by 2017.

At the same time, the number of scams are growing too. More than $781 million in losses were reported by Americans in 2013, an increase of nearly 50% over losses claimed during 2012.

There’s no getting around it; you need to protect yourself. While shopping on legitimate, well-known sites belonging to your favorite department store or specialty shop is probably not going to be a problem, lesser-known sites that come up when you’re looking for a bargain and googling something specific could be places for concern. The same can be said for auction sites such as eBay and uBid.

Here’s what you can do to see to it that all your online shopping is as secure as a trip to the mall:

1. Call the retailer first. If you’re not sure about the website’s legitimacy, pick up the phone and try the number that is listed. Anyone can set up a website today, and it doesn’t take much to look like a Fortune 500 company. Before entering your credit card number, see if you can talk to a live person.

2. Google the retailer. Did anyone post a less-than-positive review about the site you’re about to order from?

3. Look for a ‘Buy Safe’ seal. Buy Safe is a company that certifies online sellers as being reliable.

4. In today’s online world, you don’t want to risk entering your credit card information over an Internet connection unless that site in encrypted. Encrypted websites have a URL that begins with the letters ‘https’ and not just ‘http’. Look also for an SSL certificate or a pop-up window telling you you’re entering a secure site. If it’s not secure, don’t shop at the site.

5. Use your credit card, which offers more protection than a check. Other options for online payments are PayPal or Escrow.com.

6. Don’t input any more information than what is necessary. There’s no reason why a company you’re ordering a sweatshirt from needs your date of birth, social security number or income level. Anyone asking for that type of information is either selling it to others for marketing purposes or is engaged in identity theft.

7. Don’t respond to unsolicited emails by clicking on links that are embedded in the email. Instead, find the site yourself through a search engine or typing it manually if you know it.

Shopping online may be convenient, but being safely at home doesn’t ensure that you’re safe. Exercise caution while you shop online, just as you would carefully guard your cash and credit cards when shopping at a busy mall during the holidays.

Have additional online shopping tips?  Give us a heads-up by posting a reply to the comments section below.

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