About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

September 24, 2013

Online Buying Safety Tips

Over the years I have received many emails from readers in regard to making online purchases.  They often ask if I make any online purchases, and if so has it worked well?  How about returns? But the number one is, "How do I shop securely online?"

Today we will look at a few thoughts I have about online shopping and how I do it securely.  I say securely only because I have not had any problems.  That does not mean it will be that way forever. 

My first piece of advice is to shop with reputable, well-known online retailers.  They are trusted, tried and true.  Do not shop at a site you have never heard of or where you do not have a friend or two who has successfully shopped there before.  In addition, read ALL of the information concerning your purchase in each screen.  Next, print the "receipt" page that is shown at the end of every online transaction, you may need it for returns later.

Secure Browser ComparisonAnother very important item to check for is a little lock-like icon somewhere in your browser’s window when shopping.  The small lock indicates that you are shopping on a secure site.  NEVER enter your charge card or any other personal data regarding your finances on a site without that lock.  The lock indicates that your information can only be seen by you and the retailer with which you are dealing.  You can also check for the URL of the site.  It should start with, "https:" since the letter "s" at the end stands for secure.  They both indicate that your information is encoded when you submit it and is not readable until it reaches the seller – so no one can read your info in between. 

Next here is one of the most important rules!  NEVER EVER click a link in an e-mail to order something.  I don’t care how proper the e-mail looks, no matter whom it is from, don’t do it.  Always type in the address (URL) of the site you wish to purchase from.

Now for "Ron’s Steps to (Hopefully) Safe Online Buying."

Get an email address to use only for online purchases and nothing else.  Do not give it to friends or relatives, do not sign up for anything else with it, do not post it online in Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard or anywhere else.  Other than online purchases you only use it with your account.  If you are ever notified on one of your other email accounts about a purchase you KNOW it is a scam and can delete it. I have never gotten spam on my "purchase only" email account; at least up to this point.  

Whenever possible use PayPal to purchase online items.  PayPal is in the business of making safe and secure online transactions and they are good at it.  They have built in security you cannot get on your own.  Google, "PayPal security" and click one of the PayPal links for more details.

Now for my number one tip.  Open a new account at your current local bank.  Open it with the full intention of never putting more in it than whatever you may spend on an impulse online purchase.  I usually keep about $25-$50 in mine.  It is the one that I connect to my PayPal account.  I only use the debit card connected to that account for any non-PayPal online purchases.  That way if someone hacks it they can never get more than that amount. The bank usually has built in limits, too.

If I am going to purchase something for more than the amount I have in there I transfer it in from my "real" checking/savings account. 

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