Online shopping does have irresistible perks — you get to skip the crowd, shop whenever or wherever you want or at the convenience of your home, avoid running here and there to find the best prices, and do away with horrible parking space scenarios. This is the ideal shopping scenario but your shopping adventures can be a misadventure if you’re not careful.
Traditional Shopping vs. Online Shopping
Traditional shopping does have its obvious advantages but it can be time-consuming and rather unsafe especially while people are still navigating this pandemic. This is why the concept of online shopping is all over the place and has been an attractive detour for many shoppers.
Regardless of where you go, you will eventually come across people swooning over online shopping. However, with the abundance of online shopping platforms around, choosing the right one can be very challenging and daunting. More so, with the mushrooming of dangerous predators and hackers on the web, it becomes extremely hard to trust any platform.
However, there are potential disadvantages to this convenience, like poor customer service, shipping costs and additional fees. As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, fraud and identify theft are also on the rise — costing consumers a hefty chunk of problems when it comes to security, privacy, and time.
Here’s how to dodge these pain points when you shop online.
Make Sure Your Software is Up-To-Date
It’s important that you keep all your software up-to-date so you are guaranteed of a secure online shopping experience. Your computer’s firewall, internet browser, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs offer some protection against the viruses and other malware you might encounter, but you’ll need to keep them current with the latest updates and patches. You might want to run your anti-virus and anti-spyware scans a little more often this time of year.
Shop Using Your Own Phone or Computer
When you’re shopping online, it’s always recommended to use your own devices to protect yourself from hacking or phishing attempts. Experts agree that it’s best to avoid internet cafes and kiosks in public places when you’re placing an order because someone could be intercepting on your connection, or they could retrieve the information you’ve sent. It’s recommended then to stick to the familiar to be on the safe side of the fence. Stick to your home computer where you control the settings and the security of the connection.
Shop Only In Trusted Shop Sites or Retailers
One of the easiest ways to make the most out of your online shopping experience is to buy from trusted sites. These are the shopping platforms that you have used many times and are completely reliable. You’re at home with the sites and you trust its safety. Most of the fraudulent cases were registered when shopping was done from social media or unsafe platforms. This is why it is in your best interest to rely on trusted platforms for your shopping convenience, safety, and pleasure. Once you click with the vibe of a certain site, you are good to go with that option. The easiest way to ensure the veracity of a certain website is to go through the testimonial section. It will give you a clear perspective about its authenticity.
Many people tend to shop at stores they know because these are shops they trust, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to smaller businesses. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, or do a little research on the store or organization first. Look for online reviews or news about the retailer, and always make sure you have key information like the company’s physical address and contact information.
Pay Attention to Using Secure Servers
Are you shopping on secure servers? This detail may often be overlooked but it’s extremely important to keep your shopping safe and enjoyable. It may look like a single website, but when you place an order you should be on a secure server (which has additional security measures like encryption) rather than the “public” one (where you browse and load up your online cart). How can you tell? Look for the padlock or key icon at the bottom of your browser window and “https” instead of “http” in the URL string. Look closely — an open padlock or broken key means you aren’t on a secure server.
Look for the SSL Certification
Always check for SSL certification when you shop online. You can often find out beforehand how the company protects your information if it has an SSL certificate. Look for wording like “Checkout pages are secured with Secure Socket Layer (SSL)” or certification logos from third party verification services like VeriSign.
SSL, which stands for the secure sockets layer is a tool that instills privacy in your work when you want to provide information to any particular website. if a website is encrusted with this tool, you can rest assured about the safety of your information. However, you can tell if the website is infused with SSL encryption only if the URL starts with HTTPS. Furthermore, you will also be obliged to a padlock icon beside the URL in the main address bar.
Safeguard Your Privacy Online
Understand and Save Contracts
Know What You’re Buying
Take a close look at the picture and read through the accompanying product information so you’ll know what you’re ordering. Read through the product specifications, measurements, guarantees, warranties, certificates of authenticity/approval and options for materials and colours. Before you pay, carefully review your order information to ensure it’s correct.
And don’t forget to measure, especially if you’re buying clothing or shoes. Sizes differ from company to company so double check with the sizing charts for accuracy.
Check Payment Options
Not all payment methods are created equal. Find out what consumer protection your debit and credit cards offer when you’re shopping online. (For instance, can you dispute charges you didn’t make if your number is stolen?) Many people use a single credit card with a low balance just for online shopping.
If you’re using a secure service like PayPal instead, make sure you know what fees and charges apply. Additionally, see if you can place an order over the phone instead or buy a gift card in the store to use online.
Look Out for Additional or Hidden Charges
The price you see may be cheaper than in the store — but don’t forget to factor in taxes, shipping and handling charges, gift wrapping and any other applicable charges. If you’re shopping in an international store, watch out for currency exchange rates and fees on your credit card, not to mention duty or tariffs when the package crosses the border.
Understand the Store’s Cancellation and Return Policies
Before you order, make sure you understand how to cancel an order and return items — particularly if there are time constraints or conditions that apply. If you don’t live near the store, then you may have to pay out of pocket for travel, return shipping costs or “restocking fees”.
What if the recipient wants to return or exchange your gift? The good news is that many sites offer special return policies for items ordered before Christmas — but they may have to be marked as gifts when the order is placed in order to qualify.
Consider Shipping Times
Forget last minute shopping! The fastest shipping methods are also the most expensive. Pay attention to estimated shipping times and order early to ensure your gift arrives before the big day. Many retailers post the order cut-off dates for guaranteed delivery before major holidays like Christmas.
Did you know that if you buy an item from an international store the warranty might not be honored here at home? Experts say to be especially careful when it comes to warranties and policies regarding damaged or defective goods if they’re ordered outside the country.
Check on Customer Service
Most sites offer “self-directed” help, but if you prefer to talk to a real person you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Find out what you can about what customer service is offered — like how to contact a representative via chat, email, or phone and how long you can expect to wait for a response
Record Order Confirmations
Keep your order confirmation because you will find this very useful especially when you encounter problems when shopping. Online shopping is a business transaction, and your order confirmation is proof that you paid. Make sure to print, file or backup any order confirmation emails you receive and keep them for future reference.
Ignore Spam and Phishing Emails
To protect yourself from any fraudulent, spammy, or phishing emails, make sure to delete any suspicious emails, don’t open attachments, and avoid clicking on links. Also, beware of emails claiming there’s a problem with your order or your account — they could be phishing scams. When in doubt, look up the company’s phone number through an independent source (and call their customer service department to straighten out any issues.
Another email safety tip: don’t use your email to send personal or financial information. Typically, email doesn’t have built-in security protection like encryption, and it can be intercepted.
Finally, when you’re through take a moment to clear your cache to get rid of any cookies, passwords and webform information stored on your browser.
You have to be low-key when shopping online. If you want to shop safe, it is best to stay discreet. This way, you can rest assured about your identity not being revealed to the public. Although it is understandable that merchants and retailers will seek some part of your personal information before the final transaction is made. However, spilling too much information or passing information that is irrelevant to the customer services personnel will increase the risk of your data getting damaged. Don’t give out any part of your personal information unless you aren’t asked about it. For example, if you want to shop for Christmas trees online, despise visiting websites that have no relevance to this niche.
Protect Your Computer Like the FBI
You have to beat the hacker by thinking like one. If you want to avoid any hacker laying hands on your computer, nobody but you will have to root for its protection first.
You have to provide your devices extra layers or pads of security. Use top-notch anti-virus software to keep everything protected. Keep in mind, the internet is a hub of people who are looking forward to stealing your information and causing damage to it. So, if you settle for the wrong platform to shop, you could also come in contact with a hacker or a pro scammer.
In recent years, the online shopping industry has exploded tremendously, to the point that there are now many people who prefer shopping online that in a physical store. It’s not difficult to understand the potential benefits of online shopping, but at the same time there are also people who are sticking to ordinary shopping, and they have their reasons as well especially when it comes to shopping safely in an online platform.
Safe shopping is easy when you go to a reputable shopping partner like ShopGT that teams up with you to ensure that you are shopping on a safe and secure marketplace or shopping platform.