How To Make The Most Of Online Shopping
One of the greatest benefits of the digital age is that online shopping allows you to order nearly a...
There are responsibilities associated with online shopping. Identity theft is real for shoppers who use shady websites. Scammers are getting craftier as people start to do most of their shopping online. Other people aren't taking full advantage of the deals they could be finding, and wasting money they could otherwise be enjoying.
Here is what you need to know before you shop online:
Remember To Comparison Shop
When at the mall or dealing with supermarkets, comparison shopping is a chore that rarely yields savings that are worth the time you put in. When you are online, all it takes to comparison shop is a product name and a search engine. You can even get prices right on the results page of your favorite search engine.
If you are looking for something like a pack of pencils, it still probably isn't worth the few minutes it takes to go through each website and check the prices. If you are working with larger items and appliances, however, it is entirely possible to save over $100 by simply catching the right website at the right time. Try to catch major online deals, and consider setting a few email alerts if you really need to squeeze the most out of your dollar.
The price on the product page isn't the final price you'll pay on your credit card later. Be sure to read the fine print before checkout to ensure you aren't hit with some ridiculous shipping and handling rates. Don't fall prey to a $1 book with a $20 shipping charge. It's a trick meant to grab your eye, hoping you aren't paying attention. Consider all options fairly.
Think Of Everything
The product you want might not actually be the product you need. If you break your coffee carafe, you don't need to buy a new coffee maker when you can easily buy a replacement carafe for half the cost. Things you don't expect to be at stores will be available online and easy to find, and the real limit is your imagination. Instead of trying to buy a series of products, use the internet to inquire about the actual problem you are having. The advice you get will likely point you in the direction of an obscure but perfect solution.
Protect Your Private Information
In most circumstances, you can wait to buy everything you want until you get back to the comfort of your home. Unlike the safety of your home network, public networks are often monitored by hackers interested in making a quick buck off of your personal information. They can intercept anything you send or receive and use it against you in a matter of minutes. If they get to your email account, it'll take days to lock everything back down.
At home you're safe, but when using public WiFi, you will want to use either your data plan (which won't last long) or a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN service connects you to a secure offsite server via an encrypted connection that keeps you anonymous online. You can also use it to improve comparison shopping by appearing to be somewhere else with different regional prices.
Beware Of Scams & Stay On Known Websites
Data theft via public network isn't the only safety concern you should have. Hackers and other cybercriminals know very well that people who aren't necessarily tech-savvy are willing to go online and click "buy" the second they see something they like without a second thought. You need to look out for false storefronts and other scams online. Be wary of the following:
- Try to make sure that the website you are using has HTTPS protection. While not perfect, it is a good sign of a legitimate website and will help keep your information safe.
- If it looks too good to be true, it is. Nothing is really free online. Consider the cost of your precious time when making decisions such as filling out surveys.
- Websites should be well-designed and have some method of reliably contacting the administrators or associated company. Complaints arise on every site, and addressing them is a sign of a legitimate business.
- If you are ever curious, remember that it isn't hard to look up a company and see what other people have to say about it. Beware of obvious fraudulent reviews, but enough people coming back or using the site shows that it at least isn't a scam. If you can't find any information, err on the side of caution and look elsewhere for what you need.
- Online shopping and e-commerce, in general, is a constantly shifting environment, and you have to make a note to check with some of the latest trends and tools from time to time so you don't miss out on the best opportunities. All it could take is a good idea and a matter of months for Amazon and eBay to be thrown for a loop by a new contender.
What has online shopping been like for you? Have you any security concerns of your own that you'd like to share with your fellow readers? Any interesting stories to tell where a scammer tried to get the best of you but you fended them off? Make sure to let your friends know about some of the dangers they could face and strategies they can use before they go shopping online.
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Contributed By: Isa
Bio: Isa is a technology and entertainment writer who frequently writes about security and online topics. She's not addicted to online shopping, but she has no intention of deleting her Amazon account.