Online spending in the United States is expected to hit $370 billion by 2017, up from $262 billion in 2013, according to Forrester Research. While online shopping can be a great convenience, there are steps you should take to ensure a safe and satisfying experience.
Mistake #1: Taking a chance on unknown retailers. If you don’t buy from a well-known company, or one with which you’ve already done business, take precautions to ensure you can be confident of a reliable transaction. Be sure the company lists an address and phone number, and try calling the customer service number to get answers to any questions that may concern you. You can also contact your state or local consumer affairs department to see if other purchasers have filed complaints.
Mistake #2: Following unknown email links. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails or social media sites, even if they claim to be from trustworthy retailers. They may take you to sites that are trying to collect information for identity theft. Instead, type the organization’s website address into your browser’s address bar or find it through a search. Never divulge personal information in response to an ad or email.
Mistake #3: Shopping on sites that aren’t secure. You can get a lot of clues about security simply by checking the company’s website address. For example, look for URLs that begin with https rather than http—the added s indicates it is a secure website. Check also for a padlock icon in the address bar to show the site uses encryption to ensure security. Review the retailer’s privacy policies, as well, to find out if they are designed to protect your credit card information or other confidential data. Remember, if something looks suspicious, don’t buy from the site.
Mistake #4: Not using a credit card. Charging transactions allows you to dispute the purchase if it doesn’t arrive or doesn’t live up to expectations. At the same time, since identity theft is growing, be sure to review your credit card statements regularly and contact the credit card issuer if you find anything that shouldn’t be on your bill.
Mistake #5: Shopping using a public Wifi connection. While it may be fun to settle in at a coffee house and do some shopping, it’s generally a bad idea. The connection may not be secure, meaning that hackers may be able to gain access to the personal information you share with retailers.
In the aftermath of the holidays many retailers are offering major deals to make way for their spring inventory. This can be a great time to stock up on gifts for next year, if your budget allows, just make sure you’re shopping safely!
Source: 5 Online Shopping Mistakes, http://www.feedthepig.com
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SMART MONEY TIPS are published to provide practical personal financial tips relating to budgeting, saving, spending, debt, credit, financial wellness, planning for the future, and other personal finance topics. For comments or questions, please e-mail us at at Linda@financialfreedomcoaching.com. We are located in the Tampa Bay, Florida area and are dedicated to educating you to take control of your personal finances and financial future. Services include confidential personal financial coaching and mentoring, personal financial counseling, and financial education through financial literacy seminars. Linda A. Stortz is a CPA and financial literacy advocate, having earned the Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Credit Counselor, and Certified Credit Report Reviewer credentials. For more tips, please go to http://www.financialfreedomcoaching.com.
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