As a work at home Mom, I don't have a lot of time to go Christmas shopping. Fortunately for me and anyone else in a similar situation, we live in a time where just about anything can be purchased with a click of the mouse on our computer. Christmas shopping, or any shopping for that matter, can easily be done in pajamas at anytime in the day or night in the convenience of our own homes. As wonderful as this is, it is important to remember that online shopping is not always as straight forward as shopping in a store. If you are not careful, there is an increased risk of being taken advantage of. The key to safe online shopping is simply to be aware. I have written a list of the top things to keep in mind to ensure you have a smooth and safe online shopping experience.
Make Sure The Website Has A Secure Connection When Checking Out: Don't ever enter your credit card number into a webpage without checking to make sure you have a secure connection. A secure connection provides a reasonable defense against someone trying to intercept your credit card number or personal information. To make sure you have a secure connection simply look at the URL bar. The web address should start with https instead of http.
Insure a Safe Delivery of your Goods: One simple thing you can do to make sure your goods are delivered safely is to check that you have provided the retailer with the correct address. I know this sounds silly but I've actually failed to do this on one or two occasions. Some online retailers will keep the most recently used shipping address on file and, if you forget to change this in the event that you move or if the last thing you purchased was a gift shipped to someone else, you may have delays getting the delivery on time. If these things happen, you can usually call or email the retailer prior to it being shipped.
Another thing you may want to consider is how valuable the item is that you are having shipped. If you just purchased a book or a pair of festive socks you may not care that UPS left the item on your doorstep when you are not home. However, if you purchased a laptop computer or a flat screen TV, you may want to make sure that the item is not delivered unless someone is there to receive it. Many retailers selling higher end items will provide a box for you to put shipping instructions. If you want them to only deliver the package when you are home you can write something like "Signature Required" though in my experience the delivery service will not always acknowledged this request. If you are concerned, it's recommended that you track the shipment and make sure someone is home to receive the package.
Make Sure Your Antivirus Software is Up To Date: While shopping online you may end up browsing all kinds of new websites. A few are likely to share a few viruses with you if you aren't careful so make sure your computer is well protected. You may also get an influx of spam emails, some of which may appear to be from a reputable website. NEVER open any attachment unless it's from someone you know. Retailers typically won't send you attachments unless you have requested something from them. Also NEVER open any attachment with the extension .exe no matter who it's from, this is almost always a virus. The file extension .exe indicates that the file is a program that will install itself on to your computer. This extension is fine if you are purposefully installing software, however if you open an email attachment with this extension it is very likely to be virus.
Make Sure That You Only Get Charged For What You Want: Make sure to double check your shopping cart before checking out to confirm that you are only paying for the goods and services you requested. Unfortunately, some retailers will try and tack on products or charges. It is also easy to make a mistake and accidentally add a product to your shopping cart that you don't actually want. If this does happens, make sure to call or email the seller. They should be able to help you, if not stop doing business with the retailer and read the next tip.
What Do I Do if I Am Unhappy with the Product?If you are unsatisfied with the product or service you should first try to contact the retailer. If you cannot get in touch with them or you are unhappy with the way they handled your situation, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I have provided their web address below under "Additional Resources."
http://safeshopping.org/ - Provided by the bar association, it's a website dedicated to safe online shopping. It has many helpful tips I do not cover here.
http://www.bbbonline.org/consumer/complaint.asp - Better Business Bureau
http://www.anonymizer.com/ - This site sells products that help keep your identity safe while shopping online.
Hopefully these tips will help you as you do your last minute holiday shopping online. As always I would love to hear any questions or comments you have. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a Happy Holiday!
Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions