With the upcoming holidays, there will be many of you who will be doing your shopping online. It’s convenient, often times cheaper, and you can have items wrapped and delivered directly to the recipient. In fact, it’s estimated that 25% of holiday shopping this year will be online.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re shopping.
- Start by making sure that your anti-virus program is up-to-date. If you do web searches and click on the results, you may find yourself at a site that doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Along those lines, make sure the site you are visiting is trustworthy by using WebOfTrust (WOT). Now when you perform a search, the results will have a green, yellow or red symbol letting you know if the website is safe or not.
- Once you’re done selecting what you want to purchase, you’ll be taken to your shopping cart where you will be entering personal information: name, address, e-mail address, credit card information. It’s critcally important that before you enter any of that information that you are on a secured page. How can you tell? To begin with, check the web address in the address bar. It should start with “https:” instead of the normal “http:”. The s shows that you’re on a secured site. The other thing to look for is the golden lock.
There is a de facto standard among web browsers to display a “lock” icon somewhere in the window of the browser (NOT in the web page display area!) For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer displays the lock icon in the lower-right of the browser window.
The Lock Icon is not just a picture! Click, or double-click, on it to see the details for the site’s security. This is important to know because some bad sites are designed with a bar at the bottom of the web page to imitate the lock icon of your browser.
- Unless you’re planning on doing a lot of shopping at a particular site, if the site offers to save your information for future shopping, don’t let them. It may be convenient, but the fewer places that have your personal information, the better.
- When paying for the items in your shopping cart, many people feel good about using their Debit Card as opposed to racking up charges on their credit cards. However, when it comes to fraud, debit cards fall far behind credit cards. That’s because your liability limit under federal law increases the longer you wait to report any unauthorized activity. Be sure to check with your financial institution for their policies on fraud protection.
- Credit Cards – many credit card companies have $0 liability policies. This means you won’t be held accountable for any fraudulent purchases. You can dispute purchases that were either made without your consent or where the goods don’t match the descriptions. You’ll need to check with your credit card company for the specific steps to dispute a purchase and their policy on fraudulent purchases.
- Single-Use Credit cards. Many credit card companies and banks will allow you to use single-use or virtual cards. You get a unique account number that can be used once, or for a short period of time. That way, if someone were to steal the account number, when they go to use it, it will no longer be valid.
- Print out your receipt. You’ll have a record of the purchase to compare with the charge in case the vendor adds additional charges or charges you twice for something.
Read the rest of my monthly newsletter for information on ways to comparison shop and links to Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials. AskBillFirst November Newsletter