Shopping online is a great way to save some much-needed cash. You can take your time to compare prices and take advantage of online-only deals without the pressure of a pushy sales representative breathing down your neck. Yet with the news filled with tales of computer viruses and identity theft, it’s important to take a few small steps to protect yourself, whether you’re shopping for a used book or a brand new car!
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Use a credit card with safe shopping procedures.
You’ll most likely be using a credit or debit card when shopping online, so be sure to become familiar with the safety policies in place. All major credit card issuers have their own secure online systems with passwords and added security. Some will even reimburse you for losses should you become subject to online fraud.
Take a look at sales policies first.
It’s worth taking the time to ensure that you’re about to buy from a reputable merchant who will offer you a basic level of security. Take a closer look at return and refund policies, seller guarantees, and any warranties in place to protect buyers. Most online merchants will display this information prominently, so if you can’t find any information readily available this could be a warning sign.
Make sure that the checkout process is secure.
Before you provide your credit card details or put a money order in the mail, be sure that the checkout process is valid and secure. For online payments, this means using a site with full encryption. Look for a padlock symbol on the browser screen, or a message that specifically indicates that the transaction is secure. Before sending payments through the mail, look for reviews or verification from past buyers that the seller is reliable and trustworthy.
Keep records of the sale.
Once you’ve finished your purchase, keep a copy of the receipt. This helps you protect yourself if your item never arrives in the mail. For larger scale purchases, keep as much documentation as possible. Look here for an article about how to protect yourself when buying a car online, for example, which mentions the need to keep a written confirmation of your deposit as well as a copy of the original advert when buying from private sellers.
Trust your gut.
Finally, it’s a good idea to trust your gut feeling when you are making any purchase online. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the wording of an email from a seller puts you off, it may be a scam. Remember that no matter how good a deal may seem online, there are plenty of other deals out there. If something feels “off” in any way, you can always walk away from the sale and shop elsewhere.
With a little bit of caution, you can use all of the research and comparison tools that the internet provides to walk away with a great deal, without even setting foot outside the house!
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