Monday, January 5, 2009

Shopping Online

We have all suddenly come to realise just how convenient it is to do shopping online, especially at the most important times of year such as Christmas. In fact it isn't just gifts you can purchase online but a wide variety of other items including groceries, cars, and electronic equipment and of course insurance policies. But what should one do to ensure that one carries out secure shopping online?

In this article we offer several tips you may find useful when you are choosing to buy products or services online. There are many things people are concerned with when they are shopping online and the kinds of things that they worry about are as follows:

1. That the item they receive is in fact not the same as what they actually ordered.
2. That their email details will actually be provided to other parties without requesting permission first.
3. Are scared that their financial or personal details will be stolen.
4. That they receive phishing emails from sources which disguise themselves and get the customer in to believing that it has been sent in fact by a trusted financial institute or retailer.

So it is important that just as you are careful when shopping in a regular store you need to protect your financial and personal details at all times. Hopefully the information that is given above will ensure that your next online shopping experience is safe and enjoyable.

Tip 1 - It is important that you purchase goods only from secure web sites and the best way of ensuring that they use encryption technology. This way the information you give to them will be scrambled in such a way that hackers cannot actually obtain it as it passes between you and the retailer. There are several ways of recognising the sites which are secure and below we look at what these are.

a. Look at the sites address at the top of the browser page. If at the beginning you notice it shows https:// this will immediately inform you that the site is secure. But be aware that this may not appear until you actually move to the sites order page.
b. Another sign to look for when determining if a site is secure or not is to look at the bottom of the web page. If there is a closed padlock then this will show you that the site is a secure one to use. However, there are other sites that use an unbroken key rather than a padlock.

Tip 2 - It is important that before you place any orders at any online stores you do some research into them beforehand. It is a good idea to place a small order with them firstly to check out how trustworthy they really are. Some things you could look for to help further ensure that the site you are considering using is reputable are as follows:

a. That they provide both not an email address but also a physical one as well.

b. That they give details of either a number for a customer service line or order line that you can contact directly. Ring the number provided and ask a few questions to establish the legitimacy of the business further.

There are plenty of ways for you to be able to do research quickly and easily online today in to online businesses. Certainly in the US one of the best ways is by contacting the Better Business Bureau in the area where you live. Plus of course don't be afraid to use online Yellow Pages as well.

Tip 3 - After carrying out your research you need to read through the web sites privacy and security policies as this will explain how all orders for a company are processed. Normally this will be on a separate page headed "Privacy Policy" and it is here where you will discover if the retailer is intending to offer your details to other companies.

Tip 4 - Look for merchants who sell items online that are members of say a seal of approval programme. These often set guidelines for the merchants to follow with regard to privacy related practices.

Although both of these are there to help protect your privacy you may find sometimes that they don't guarantee that any merchant will not allow this information to be given to others at a later date. Sometimes their privacy policies can change and should a business become bankrupt then the buyer of the business will also be given the information held on the businesses customer data base.

Tip 5 - When you are purchasing any items online then use one specific credit card for these purchases only. This way you are in a better position to detect any unlawful credit charges being made against it. Also use a credit card rather than a debit card as you are more open to theft from your bank account if you use a debit one. Also unlike credit cards there is no protection on your debit card if funds are taken without your consent.

Above we have offered you several tips that you may find useful when it comes to ensuring that shopping online is safe. Certainly the more you learn about secure shopping online the less likely you are going to end up being one of the thousands whose money or identity has been stolen.

Adflyer is a free classifieds and shopping website aimed at both the general public and business users to promote sales within the UK.

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