Internet Shopping - How Safe Is It?

Online shopping can be a completely safe and rewarding experience provided you are dealing with a legitimate, reputable retailer. But how do you know if they are legitimate??? Here lies the "fear of the unknown."

Well, as with anything in life, there are precautions to take, questions you should ask yourself, and signs to look out for. Provided you are careful with who you decide to purchase from, online shopping can be a very convenient and pleasurable experience.

Important Safety Precautions:

Take a good look around the website. Make sure you read their Privacy Policy. A privacy policy let's you know the procedures and methods they have in place to secure your personal information. Find the answers to these questions...Do they share your information with others? Some companies sell or distribute your information to other companies. You may wind up on everybody's mailing list. Do they have security measures in place to protect your information (i.e. SSL- https)? SSL is the abbreviation for Secured Socket Layer. SSL is security software that encrypts information transmitted between browsers. What this means in layman's terms is that your personal information such as name, address, credit card number, etc. is coded or scrambled so that anyone who may try to intercept this information as it is transmitting cannot read it. But don't just rely on them telling you that their site is secure, check for yourself. You will know when you are in a secure browser by looking at the bottom browser bar on your computer (lower right). If the browser is secure, you will see a security lock image. Also check the web address in your top browser bar. Secure web addresses begin with "https" whereas, non-secure pages begin with "http."

Setting up accounts with online stores is quite common. However, many people are leery of this because they don't understand why it is sometimes necessary. Generally, the only information you are providing is your name, address, email address, and sometimes your phone number. This is all necessary information that the store needs in order to ship your order or contact you regarding your order. Setting up an account with the retailer usually provides you with additional such as tracking the status of your order. On the other hand, if the account set-up asks for more than just your basic contact information, then you may not want
to proceed. You should not be required to provide your social security number, bank account number, or birthdate. This information is much more personal and should not be necessary to have an order shipped.

Read the shipping and returns policies before making a purchase. Make sure you feel comfortable with them. Find answers to these questions...What is their shipping timeframe? Is it within a reasonable amount of time? Will they notify you if it will take longer than anticipated? What choices will you have then? Do they allow returns? Are there restrictions on what items you can return and explanations as to why? Do they make sense?

Don't make huge purchases right off the bat. Make a small, low cost purchase with the company and consider it a low-risk test of their credibility. This allows the retailer a chance to prove themselves worthy of your business, but limits the monetary risk you are taking. Should all go well, you can make a larger purchase in the future with peace of mind, now knowing that this is a legitimate business.

There are many advantages to purchasing online and as long as you are careful with who you choose to deal with you can reap the rewards.

Here are some of the benefits:

Convenience: Why fight the crowds in the stores, especially during the holidays, when you can sit at home on your computer and shop. And price comparisons are just a click away when shopping on the internet. There's no need to fight traffic running from store to store looking for the "best deal." You can have your purchase delivered to your doorstep within a few days.

Prices: Online retailers and storefronts purchase their products from the same manufacturers. However, an online retailer doesn't have the costly overhead that a storefront has (i.e. Lease payments on the building, heat and electric, just to name a few). Therefore, the online retailer doesn't have to markup the price as much as the storefront in order to make the same profit. So you, the consumer, come out the winner!

Store Hours: Online retailers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shop at your convenience.

So as long as you take some simple precautions, shopping online can be a very pleasurable, time saving and money saving experience.

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