So, Let’s consider: How can you have a safe online shopping experience during the holidays and the rest of the year?
So, once again, we find ourselves in the last week or 2 before xmas and it’s time to hit the internet and see what we need to buy. Or, you could be one of the smart ones that is doing their shopping earlier to make sure that things actually arrive when they’re supposed to… Then again, you could be shopping in the middle of April for some items that you need and you want to make sure you’re not going to get snookered (yes it’s a word!) online by some nepharious website, pricing scheme, or some other schemer that isn’t in your best interest.
So, What are a few things we can do to having a fighting chance on the wild world web? Let’s take a look at a few:
Watch out for false advertising.
Does it sound too good of a deal to be true? It just might be. Also be aware of look alike web pages that are designed to look just like the real thing. Watch for subtle differences like name changes or misspellings and always be careful for being redirected to another web page when you think you’re buying from something authentic.
Look over the website carefully.
Only shop on secure websites.
By secure websites, I mean sites that don’t send all your information in the clear for everyone to monitor. A secure site’s url will begin with HTTPS:// ….not just HTTP://…. And, NEVER use your credit card on a site that isn’t using a HTTPS page nor give any of your personal information on a page that’s not HTTPS protected. If you’re not familiar with a site that you want to use, checkout their BBB profile at BBB.org.
Is your antivirus current?
If your antivirus protection isn’t current don’t even think of shopping on the net until it is. By not protecting yourself you leave yourself open to all kinds of problems from non-secured sites and those sites that love to go phishing for your personal information.
What are the return policies?
Frankly, there are those that will buy anything and everything on the net. Frankly, I’m a bit more picky. Especially for clothing, if I can’t see it and feel it and know that it’s going to fit I don’t want to buy it. This is one of the reasons I like JC Penney brick and mortar stores over anyone’s web page. And when I buy cloths or other things over the net, it’s because I know what I’m buying and it’s what I’m looking for.
BUT, not everyone is that hard core when it comes to buying stuff on the net and, face it, there’s going to be times when you either get the wrong stuff, wrong size, wrong colour shades, etc., or you just don’t like the damn thing and want to send it back! Make sure you can and how you can BEFORE you buy. Many major chains with a web presence will let you bring a return into the local store for return or exchange. Frankly, I really like this option. Yet for some others, you’re going to have to call their return center is some 3rd world country to get a return authorization and instructions…and hope you can understand what they’re saying.
Always pay by credit card!
Many issues and problems with returns can be easily dealt with if you paid with a major credit card. If the vendor isn’t responsive to your issues, just call the card company and talk to them about the transaction. It’s amazing how fast a vendor will return your call when they get a complaint from a credit card company, especially when they realize that their transaction is being canceled. Also, a credit card protects you from other fraud potential issues, currency exchange manipulations if what you’re buying is in a different currency than your own, etc. And I said CREDIT CARD….do NOT use a debit card or wire someone funds unless you REALLY know and trust the target. Getting problems fixed with those types of transactions can be a lot harder to do…at least to do to your satisfaction.
What’s the price and are there any special promotions going on?
Everyone’s going to claim they have the best price of the item because they want your sale. Do your own research. That’s what Google’s for! Further, it’s normal and regular for vendors to have seasonal sales, loyalty awards bonuses, etc. Look for them. When they exist, avail yourself of them!
Watch out for phishing scams.
These generally come in the form of unwanted or unsolicited emails sending you to a website that you may have never heard of. Caveat emptor! And, in a big way! Some of these may claim to have something free just for you, or have just what you’re looking for. BE CAREFUL. Search engines and web trafficking monitors can and do keep track of what you’re searching for and buying. This information is available for a price and it can and will be used in marketing schemes against you.
Be careful about unwanted phone calls from high pressure people that have exactly what you’re wanting. Especially if you’ve never heard of them and more so if they’re calling from off shore on a poor quality phone connection. Chances are their name’s NOT Joe and they don’t work for State Farm!
Those emotional appeals for donations.
Well, I’ve covered this before, but, be prepared for all those phone calls and the tonnes of junk mail from every worthy cause that thinks you should be donating to them. Frankly, I have my own list of charities that I support each year and I’m not opposed to adding to them if and when I find something I want to support. And, neither should you. However there’s a few things to be aware of:
Watch out for the hyper emotional appeals. These are intentional and designed to maximize your wallet emptying.
Does the charity disclose how it’s using your donations? If not, then don’t give them anything.
Watch out for charities that may sound like a well known and trusted one, but aren’t. Name similarities abound like apples in the summer, make sure you aren’t getting one with a worm in it. The BBB’s wise giving alliance (www.give.org) is one of many good places to start looking to verify a group you may not be familiar with.
Fortunately, the world is generally full of good people wanting to do good business and help their fellow man, regardless of the time of the year. Yet following that old Reagan adage of “Trust but verify” is always a good policy to have.
I’m Don Rima and that’s the view From Where I Stand.
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