It seems like every year there are more and more people shopping online during the holidays. There are some people that just hate shopping in general and especially when there are large crowds. For others, online shopping is all about saving money even when you factor in shipping. Here are some tips that will hopefully result in a good online shopping experience.
I know you have heard this before, but if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. Trust nothing and verify everything.
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU SHOP
Only shop at websites that you know and trust. Websites will pop up for the holidays and offer really great (too good to be true) prices; you pay for the item, but it never gets shipped and the site closes down and runs off with your money.
Make sure a website has a legitimate mailing address and phone number. If you are suspicious, call and speak to a human before doing business with them. If you are not comfortable with a website, don’t use it.
One tool that MIGHT be helpful in determining if you want to do business with a particular website or not is MYWOT.
If you are looking for tech product reviews, take a look at techwalla.com
CREDIT CARD OR DEBIT CARD
Don’t use a debit card for online shopping, use a credit card. Some people go as far as using one credit card exclusively for online purchases. Also, there are some that use pre-paid credit cards to minimize the financial damage that can be done just in case there is a problem.
YOUR ONLINE SHOPPING DEVICE
Regardless if you will be using a smartphone, computer or tablet, make sure:
The operating system is up to date.
Make sure you are using a good antivirus program and that it is up to date. Avast has worked well for me over the years.
HTTPS IS YOUR BUDDY
Only shop at websites that are secure, especially when you are at the point of entering your credit card information. If you only see HTTP at the beginning of the website address, it is not a secure site. HTTPS means that the site is secure and is encrypting information you send from your device, through the Internet, and to the website’s servers.
If you sign up for an account at a site, don’t use usernames that can be easily guessed and DEFINITELY don’t use easy to guess passwords. It has been my experience that using a passphrase is more secure than using a password.
TO SAVE OR NOT TO SAVE
Many if not all online merchants will give you the opportunity to save your credit card information at their website. They say that it makes shopping more convenient in the future. I say, “No thanks, I’m fine.” With the rate that companies are being hacked today, I’ll just go through the ordeal of typing in my credit card info each time.
I am a bit embarrassed to say that I just recently started using 2-step authentication. Yes, it is more work, but how much work are you facing if your accounts are compromised? If there is any website that offers 2-step authentication, please consider using it.
What is 2-step authentication? 2-step authentication requires two things (something you know and something you have) in order to gain access to an account, website, computer, etc.
I’ll use Gmail as an example. I used to be able to login to my Gmail account using any computer just by typing in my username and password. With 2-step authentication, I can still login to my own personal computer (I told Gmail to trust my computer) with just my username and password. If I try logging in from another computer, Gmail will ask for my username, password AND a special code. The special code is sent to my cell phone. Once I type in my username, password and the special code, I gain access. So, if a bad guy has your username and password, he still can’t access your account because he does not have the third piece of information required for access.
SHOPPING USING PUBLIC WI-FI
Simply put, don’t do it. It is way too risky. You may think you are connected to Starbuck’s wireless network (or the wireless network of any business you trust), but you are really connected to the crook’s wireless network and he is stealing your personal information.
DON’T GET PHISHED
Be careful when you receive emails that look official as if they came from an actual merchant you trust. The email could be a phishing attempt from a crook. Phishing emails often contain links that do one of two things after you click on them:
They take you to a fake site that looks real and ask you for your personal information.
A key logger is downloaded to your device without you knowing it. Now the crook can sit back and capture a log of every key you press on your keyboard…passwords, account numbers, etc.
I often order food online from Chipotle. I love technology, but it is by no means perfect. I know things can and do go wrong between my computer and the servers at Chipotle. I always print out my order confirmation. Make sure you have proof of what you bought online. You don’t want an online retailer to have a case of amnesia after you have spent your hard earned money.
No, I am not talking about the shoe store. I am talking about finding the exact product you want for the lowest price. I have not personally used the sites below, but my Internet research tells me they are worth looking into when trying to find the best deal.
Happy Online Shopping.