Online shopping is a modern convenience that many people use every day. You can comparison shop, find great deals and buy many items that are not available in your local stores. However, shopping over the Internet does carry some risks and it's important to follow a few simple safety rules to avoid problems down the road.
Check for a secure connection
One of the most important things you can do when shopping online is to make sure a merchant's website offers secure transactions. Most online stores use SSL (secure socket layer) encryption to keep your credit card information hidden as it passes over the Internet. You can tell whether a site is secure if its URL begins with “https” instead of “http.” It may also display a padlock icon on your browser. The web store does not have to use SSL for every page, but the payment process should always be encrypted.
Don’t store your credit card
When shopping online, try to avoid the temptation of storing your credit card information for future purchases. Although it's convenient, it can also be risky. If you do opt to have use a credit card storage site remember your credit card number, limit yourself to those sites where you shop frequently, make sure you use a strong password and review your purchase history often. Note that some web stores will save your credit card information without asking, but you can remove it by updating your account information.
Read seller’s ratings and reviews
Many websites, including eBay.ca and Amazon.ca, let you buy items from small merchants and independent sellers. Before buying, read up on the seller’s ratings and reviews from past customers. Look for sellers who have a long history of positive reviews. You should also take the time to understand their shipping and return policies. Once you receive your item, help out other shoppers by adding your own rating and review of the seller.
Be wary of unknown shops
Large online stores like Amazon.ca or websites for chain stores (Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.) are generally considered safe. Small, unfamiliar stores should make you a little more wary. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t support these small businesses. You should simply take more care to read independent reviews, check for a secure payment page and perhaps look them up with the Better Business Bureau. Use common sense and avoid websites with amateurish presentation, poor grammar and multiple spelling mistakes.
Avoid shopping on public computers
The safest way to shop online is to only use your home computer. A public computer, like those at libraries or Internet cafes, opens you up to additional risks. If you do use a public computer for shopping online, be sure to log out of your account and clear the computer’s browser history, cookies and page cache. You should also be wary of those around you while making the purchase. A thief doesn’t need computer hacking skills to look over your shoulder and copy down your information.
When following basic Internet safety rules, shopping online has very few risks. Keep an eye toward security and you can safely enjoy the convenience of shopping from home.