Who doesn't love to shop online? After all, you get to buy anything you want without having to change out of your PJ's, put on shoes, or fight for a parking spot!
But all that convenience comes with a trade-off. Shopping online can be very risky if you don't take the proper precautions. So, how do you take advantage of everything the world wide web has to offer without putting yourself in danger?
1. Stick to websites you trust.
Anytime you enter your credit card information on a website you don't know anything about you're taking a risk. So, stick to websites that are extensions of offline stores, websites you're already familiar with, or websites run by a company or person you trust.
2. Get up close and personal with the URL.
Don't just click "buy"! Instead, go onto the shopping cart and make sure the URL in your browser starts with "https://". If it starts with just "http://" (and leaves out the "S"), you're dealing with an open server. The "S" means you're dealing with a secure server - meaning it's much harder for a hacker to get ahold of your sensitive information mid-transmission.
3. Only shop through a secure connection.
Your internet connection has as much to do with your safety as the website itself! Never, ever shop on a public wi-fi connection. And, if you're using your wi-fi at home, make sure it's password-protected.
4. Don't give out any unnecessary information.
Online stores don't need a ton of information in order to process your payment. For example, asking for your birthday or marital status is completely unnecessary. Asking for your social security number or tax ID number is a major red flag (you need to run screaming from any website that asks for this sensitive information)!
And, whatever you do, don't volunteer information. If no one asks for your phone number or mailing address, don't give it to them!
5. Pay with PayPal.
Millions of people use PayPal every single day. While there's some safety in all those numbers, PayPal also offers another big benefit - only having to enter your credit card information once. Once your credit card is registered with PayPal, you won't have to enter the number anywhere else. And, if a website uses PayPal to handle its transactions, you'll get to pay on PayPal's secure server, instead of a website you may not be familiar with.
6. Read your receipts.
This may seem like common sense, but you wouldn't believe how many people forget to do it! Make sure the amount you were charged is the amount you were expecting to pay. That entails finding out some of the details beforehand - like shipping costs. This shouldn't be hard to do though. In fact, if a merchant isn't willing to give you all the important information upfront, you need to think twice about giving them your hard-earned money.
7. Don't store your credit card information.
Lots of online stores will offer to store your credit card information so it's more convenient to make future purchases. This isn't a very good idea, but if you decide to do it on a legitimate online store (like Amazon, for example), make sure your account's password is very secure!
Let's say you buy a tackle box from Joe's Fishing Supply, and your order is processed and delivered without a hitch. But then, you start getting phone calls and emails from a bunch of other companies trying to get you to buy stuff. Pretty confusing, right?
Remember - as great as the web can be, it can also be incredibly dangerous. So, use some common sense and make some extra effort to protect yourself. If you leave it up to the merchants themselves, you could wind up very disappointed!
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