Guide for shopping online

Instead of running to a store with your wallet, you can conveniently shop at your home or office PC. If you want greater convenience, shopping can also be done without a PC, using a mobile device (such as a mobile phone) connected to the internet. Realize, however, shopping online is a risky proposition if you don't know how to safely shop online. Here we present number of clues to help you make your online shopping experience a safer and secure.


Let's start with a website because this is where you will do the clicking to spend your money. Make sure website you choose to shop at is a secure website. Some clues that can help you know the website is secure (in order of importance):

  • The URL (web address) starts with https instead of http. Note: if you typed the URL of a website in your browser and it does add https automatically when the page is opened, it means the website is not secure.
  • There is a padlock or other secure symbol on the web page. This is usually shown on a webpage by an independent company website.
  • The website says it is secure place to do business.

Privacy statements

Once you identified the website is secure, for your financial transaction, make sure to read the privacy statements. Here you will find information that described how the website is collecting information about your visit and how this information is used. Having a quick look at the privacy statements can alleviate many concerns. If the use of cookies is of a concern, consider removing cookies or deny website writing cookies to your browser.

Information required for transaction

Know also what information will be collected for your transaction to be completed. For this you have to look at the form when you checkout. Ask yourself if the requested information on the form is necessary for your online transaction? If the answer is no, the website may not making a legitimate request. If what the website is asking you is reasonable, it is probably ok to proceed with the transaction. You should not have to provide a social security number to purchase a book. If you are making a loan request, you are likely to be asked for your social security number and other personal information.

In essence, it is a good idea to avoid sharing any personal information beyond what is needed for you to successfully complete your financial transaction.

Username and passwords

When it comes to using a username and passwords, don’t use your social security number of credit card numbers as identifiers. Use of personal information as identifiers makes you vulnerable for fraud. Remember to make your login credentials (username and password) complicated such as using a combination of random letters, numbers and other symbols. And, change the password periodically. If you don’t see the need to use the website in the future, consider deleting your account to make sure it is not used in the future.

What else makes shopping online safer?

Here are some other factors worth considering when shopping online:

  • Make sure you shop with companies you know. If you are referred by a credible source to use a particular website, consider using the website. If you heard about a website that is just launched and offering incredible deals, take a hard look.
  • Review and understand the return and refund policy. This should be done prior to ordering. Well established business websites typically have more options for returns. For instance, you could buy something online and return it at local store.
  • Know the shipping charges, if any.
  • If you are shopping at a foreign website, know how much it will cost you in dollars or in your own currency. Ask yourself: are there any important duties or taxes? Who will you contact in case of a problem or question? Is the customer service available in your language?
  • Read feedback from other buyers. This is very helpful information to guide your purchase decision.
  • Checking the ratings of the seller, if available.
  • Contact the seller if you have any questions, prior to making the purchase – of course.
  • Avoid making a purchase if you are concerned about the return policy.
  • If you buy an item that was misrepresented, contact the customer service.

If you like to buy something you simply add the item to the cart. You can later remove the item(s) if you don’t want to purchase. When you are considering buying an item, read its description carefully. Also check out any videos or graphics, and product reviews or ratings.

Know of the condition of the item you are considering to purchase. Is it new, used, and worn or does it have any issues or flaws, etc? Asking these questions is helpful particularly when purchasing on online auctions.

Remember to print (or save to your computer) a copy of your transaction. The order, confirmation, and tracking numbers will help you get answers to any questions pertaining to your order in the future.

Posted on 4/26/2008
by Raj Singh