Shopping Safely Online
Ask people what they want most, and they invariably say "more time". More money would be nice, too, but time is precious. Well, what if you could save both time and money, all the while avoiding the hassle of shopping with small children?
Online shopping offers all of this, but many of us remain wary. However, companies are well aware of our concerns about privacy and are working hard to making online shopping secure. Here’s how you can benefit from the convenience of the net while still staying safe:
- Use a credit card. This may seem counterintuitive: after all, we want to protect our financial information, so why give out our card number? The National Consumers League, though, says that credit cards are actually the safest route. Card companies offer fraud insurance, so you don’t have to pay for charges you didn’t incur (some may require a deductible). These cards also offer limited liability. If the item doesn’t arrive, or it’s damaged, you can get the credit card company involved. If you send a cheque or a money order, on the other hand, there’s often nothing you can do.
- Keep your card as safe as possible. Some credit cards now provide "substitute" or "single-use" numbers, linked to your account. Because you never use your real number, no one else can ever reuse your information. If you do give out your number, though, always do so on the retailers’ secure checkout, rather than in an email. To make sure it’s secure, look at the address bar. When you’re asked to enter your information, the "http" should change to "shttp" or "https".
- Consider phoning in your order . Many retailers offer the option of calling in your credit card number if you don’t want to type it in over the net. Browse their websites to compile your order, but then pick up the phone to place it.
- Sign up with Paypal. Paypal acts as an intermediary, allowing you to send or receive money over the net without revealing your information. If you "win" something at Ebay, for instance, you can ask Paypal to charge your bank account or credit card, and deposit that amount of money in the vendor’s Paypal account. The person you buy from never sees your credit card number.
- Beware of email scams. NEVER reply to emails from Paypal, Ebay, Amazon, or other large Internet firms asking you to update your information, even if the email looks legitimate. These companies will rarely send you an email like this, though many hackers have succeeded in collecting credit card information this way. If you do need to update something, visit the company’s own website and do so there.
More than $26 billion was spent online last year, and that number is sure to grow. Online shopping is quicker, often cheaper, and definitely easier. Try it, and you may never drag your kids to the mall again!