Those holiday shoppers who want to avoid the crowded stores this season may opt to purchase their holiday gifts online instead. While shopping online offers convenience and is a great way to score good deals - especially on hard-to-find items, you want to have a safe shopping experience.
Angie's List went to the experts to develop a list of ways to cyber shop safely:
- Know the merchant: Shop at sites that have a good reputation and clearly offer physical addresses and phone numbers where you can contact them if something goes wrong.
- Shop safe & secure: When shopping online, make sure the site offers a secure transaction. Look for a locked padlock icon at the bottom of your browser window – it indicates the site is using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which encrypts sensitive information.
- Be aware of what you’re buying: Read the fine print and the description of the product closely. If you’re purchasing toys, check the recall list so you know they’re safe.
- Before you buy, get all the details: Get a complete description of the items, the total price, including shipping and delivery time, warranty information, return policy, and what to do in case you have problems. Some companies won’t accept returns at the store where the item was purchased, and shipping can get expensive, as well as time consuming. Also, some retailers – especially electronics stores –charge a hefty re-stocking fee.
- Guaranteed delivery: Santa’s never late and your gift shouldn’t be late either. Check delivery times before you finalize your sale.
- Protect your privacy: When you register for an account to shop online, think about your password – it should be something you can remember but that can’t easily be figured out by cyber thieves. Use combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Also, keep passwords unique from account to account.
- Use a credit card: The safest way to shop online is with a credit card. In case something goes wrong, you are protected under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. Debit and ATM cards are not protected by federal law to the extent that credit cards are.
- Keep proof handy: After placing an order online, you should receive a confirmation page that reviews your entire order. Print and file the information in case you need proof later.
- Be skeptical: Remember if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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