Online Holiday Shopping Advice

Celebrating any holiday can be a joy indeed, but only after undergoing a lot of stress shopping for all those goods. If you have relieved some of the stress by just purchasing online, the problem is that Internet shopping can be an unsafe environment if you are not careful. Here are our suggestions for a wise online shopper.

Know who you are dealing with – Anyone can set up shop online. Do some research and confirm an online seller’s physical address and phone number (as most credible online shops do) in case you need to get in touch with them. You can also ask your friends or relatives who have purchased through this site for further reference.

Guard your online password – Never give out your password even to the website operators. If you are doing online shopping outside of your home, check if the site provides you password-protection for shared or public computers.

Protect your privacy – If the online shop sends you e-mail or pop-up message while browsing and asking for financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number, do not reply or click on the link. Legitimate companies do not ask for this information via e-mail or pop-ups. 

Compare prices – Look at websites that offer price comparisons. Include shipping and handling into the total cost of the order, then stack these costs against your budget and needs.

Order only on a secure server – If you begin a transaction and want to provide your financial information through the shop’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a web address that begins with https://. The “s” stands for “secure.” Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof, as some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.

Read the fine print – Read the seller’s description of the product closely and carefully, especially the fine print. Words such as “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition.  Products with “too good to be true prices” could be counterfeits.

Check out refund and return policy – Look for terms of the deal such as refund policies and delivery dates. Check if you can return the item for a full refund, as well as who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees if in case you return the item. Verify on when you can expect to receive your order. 

Check delivery dates – The law requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date. Check if the recipient can return your gift in order for you to ask for a gift receipt to be included in the package. It is also advised to order early to allow plenty of time for shipment and delivery.

Check shipping and handling fees – A seemingly inexpensive product may prove to be untrue once you see that the shipping and handling fees accompanying the delivery costs double or even triple of the product cost. Make sure that such additional fees are reasonable and not too excessive.

Review warranties – Check out the site’s service contract in relation to the product. Look into clauses guaranteeing that they will provide service in case the product was damaged or malfunctioning when received or during the course of their service warranty. Inspect if there are other guarantees the site provides for the product.

Check the company’s privacy policy – Before doing business, the company should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, as well as the reasons and the uses of such information. If you cannot find a privacy policy, or if you cannot understand it, consider taking your business to another site that is more security-conscious and customer-friendly.

Pay the safest way – Do not send cash under any circumstances.  Your online shopping should only be paid by credit or charge card. Doing so protects your transaction by the Fair Credit Billing Act, wherein you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor is investigating. However, if your credit card is used without your knowledge and permission, you are liable for no more than $50 in charges per card.

Track your purchase – Follow-up on your order every now and then. Check where your product is now, making sure that it is not along the way. Companies can track them by coordinating with their logistics team or its logistics partner.

Keep receipts and website printouts – Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any e-mail you exchange with the seller. Also, read your credit card statements as you receive them and look out for unauthorized charges.

Use anti-virus software and a firewall – Anti-virus software protects your computer from harmful viruses that can destroy your data, slow your computer’s performance, cause a crash, or even allow spammers to send e-mail through your account. Use it to scan your computer and incoming e-mail for viruses, deleting them on sight. Meanwhile, firewalls help keep hackers from using your computer to send out your personal information without your permission. If your operating system does not have a firewall, get a separate software firewall or install a hardware firewall (an external device that includes firewall software). Remember to update them regularly since viruses and hacker update as well.

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