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Safety tips for online shopping this holiday

Safety tips for online shopping this holiday

With high unemployment and a depressed economy, many people are struggling just to make ends meet. And with the holiday shopping season in full swing, getting the best bang for your buck is even more important in this economy.

While brick-and-mortar door-buster deals and bottom dollar prices entice many a holiday shopper, more and more people are turning to the Internet for fabulous online steals-and-deals.

Online shopping is a convenient alternative to traditional shopping. No more standing in long lines at the checkout counter, waiting on a price check or trying to find a parking space in inclement weather. Today, with the simple click of a button, nearly any product can be purchased online. From home appliances, jewelry and clothing, to automobiles, pets and homes, online shopping is a convenient way to purchase all sorts of items from the comfort of one’s home.

While more and more people shop online, schemers and scammers are busy at work concocting new ways to take your money. In order to ensure a seamless and safe online shopping experience this holiday season, simply follow the simple precautions and safety tips listed below.

Simple Precautions to Keep Personal Information Safe and Secure

Computer Security – While many computer systems include security software, keeping your anti-virus software, browser and operating system up-to-date is a critical component in keeping your computer and personal information safe and secure. If your system does not include a security package, there are many free or low-cost security software products on the market today.

Be Careful Before you Click – If a “legitimate” or official email from a bank, business, shipping company or online account arrives in your inbox asking for personal information such as password, user name or social security number, beware! Instead of clicking directly on the link within the actual email, manually input the website address into your browser instead.

Simple Safety Tips for Online Holiday Shopping

Comparison Shop and Save – If you want to get the best bang for your buck, take your time. Instead of purchasing the first product you find, why not spend a few moments using one of the many comparison shopping websites available today? Many sites also provide promotional codes and coupons for product discounts and free or reduced shipping.

Shipping and Handling Fees – While the cost of a product may sound too good to be true, additional shipping, handling or other fees may mean the difference between a great steal and a rotten deal. Be sure to check shipping, handling, taxes or other hidden fees prior to purchase.

Return Policy – Before making an online purchase, be sure to read the fine print! While some merchants offer a full return policy, others may not. Some merchants may only offer a partial refund or have other stipulations in place. Some merchants require the consumer to pay for shipping, handling and insurance fees when returning an item. It is also important to keep all boxes, manuals, paperwork and packaging materials. Some merchants will not accept returns unless the item is shipped back in its original packaging.

Warranty – It is also important to find out about the product’s warranty. Some warranties are covered only by the specific manufacturer, not the merchant.

Pay with Credit Card – When making an online purchase, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Many companies offer an extra level of protection guarding against a fraudulent charge or dispute.

“S” means Secure – Before entering personal information on a website, first take a close look at the website address in your browser. The website should have an “s” added to the end of “http.” In other words, the beginning of the website address should start with “https.” You should also see a closed padlock icon located in the bottom corner of the browser.

Better Business Bureau Online – If in doubt, check it out! If you are unfamiliar with a specific vendor or merchant, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) currently has over 58,000 websites that have met the BBB standards. The BBB provides information on reputable businesses and also helps resolve consumer complaints and issues.

The simple tips listed above will ensure a safe online shopping experience for holiday shoppers.