Tips and Tricks
Online Shopping

 by Elizabeth Hensley

Shopping online is something we all do. The selection is huge, shipping is fast, there are bargains at most retailers and even making a return is painless. Shopping online is a secure and convenient way to get what you need safely and quickly, but it also comes with a caveat. Buyer beSMART.

There will always be someone in the business of stealing your information or committing fraud for their own personal financial gain. Knowing how to limit your exposure can make online shopping a pleasant experience.

Use Familiar Websites – Start at a trustworthy site. Make certain that the web address begins with https://. The “S” on the end of that means it is secure. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different domain (like.net instead of .com). Sales on these sites may seem too good to be true and it is likely because they are. The idea of saving money is enticing and that is how these site administrators take your information.

Don’t Overshare – No online retailer needs your social security number or your birthday to do business with you. The more a scammer knows, the easier it is to steal your identity. Use good judgement and do not give out too much information.

Create Strong Passwords – Coming up with passwords can be daunting when you have a different password for every account you have (which you should). Not only should they be long, strong, and memorable, they should be changed often. The more complex a password, the less likely someone will crack it. There are some great apps out there to help you manage your passwords, but make sure you do some research on how reputable the app is before you install it.

Read the fine print – When making a purchase, make certain you have read all the rules that apply to the purchase. If you are buying something that is a subscription service, check the introduction rate and what it will repeatedly cost you every month after the introductory period is over. Paying nothing for a trial is only a good deal if you remember to shut it off before the company begins charging you $89.99 a month. If you have clicked yes for the terms and conditions, you have approved this ongoing charge.

Only click to purchase once – Sometimes we are tempted to cluck the “Buy Now” button more than once if it seems it didn’t go through. The best thing you can do is click once and wait to get a confirmation email of your purchase. If you don’t receive one within a brief time (they are generally sent out immediately), then try your purchase again. Most retailers show you a confirmation number for your purchase once it has been approved.

Skip the Card, Use Your Phone –The high levels of authority and oversight from Apple and Google have made mobile apps much safer for purchases by consumers. They can trace software back to its authors which has made identifying and eliminating potential threats much easier. Linking these accounts to your checking account is more secure than using your cards for every online purchase and the risk of fraud is lessened.

If it seems too good to be true… Recently, social media feeds have become ripe with fake offers for items you’ve been shopping for online at greatly reduced prices. When you click on the link, it looks like you’re shopping at a reputable site that is selling overstocked goods for sometimes 25% of the going market price. The problem is, the site is fake and is designed solely to get you to put your credit card data in. If the site isn’t a well-known retailer, it’s always best to do your research to make sure you aren’t being scammed.

No matter how you are shopping these days, use common sense and be aware of the information you are giving to a stranger. It is important to deal with well-known, reputable companies and know exactly what you are signing up for. If you have any questions about how to prevent fraud or what to do if your identity is stolen, contact us at (800) 245-8112.

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