It’s time to update our knowledge base about online shopping. There’s not much time left and you must allow for shipping. I suggest getting online orders in by Dec. 14 unless you are just ordering gift cards or certificates.
I’m convinced that online shopping can be as safe as shopping in a store, as long as you exercise some common sense. Because of the store hours (24/7), it is very convenient and it can be easy to compare prices when you use one of the many online comparison shopping sites.
If you’re skeptical or nervous about online shopping, there are some things you can do to increase your security and overall satisfaction. First, know who you are dealing with and don’t email financial information to anyone.
Know exactly what you’re buying; make sure it is new, in the box, with warranty if that is what you want. Compare based on total cost; some sellers appear to have the lowest price and then tag you with very high shipping and/or handling costs.
Pay by credit card so that you’ll be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and probably have limited liability in case of a dispute. Keep a paper or electronic record of every transaction. Keep any emails regarding the purchase until the item is delivered to your satisfaction.
One last caveat – watch while you are filling in order forms and be wary of pre-checked options that you may not really want.
Amazon and eBay have become online shopping giants and most of the brick and mortar stores now have some degree of online presence as well. Wal-Mart has gotten into this big time in 2009 with daily specials and ship-to-store or home options.
There are also general bargain sites like Overstock.com and SmartBargains.com. If you want to compare prices across a wide variety of sites, try one of the shopping search sites like Shopzilla or PriceGrabber.com.
For electronic items, I like to compare the product reviews from CNET, http://reviews.cnet.com. Once you find an item that you like, you can Google search for it online or you can go to a local store if you like.
Last December I told you to surf to OnGuardOnline.gov and see what the Federal Trade Commission and their partners in the technology industry are doing to secure online commerce and to protect your personal information.
In addition to online shopping tips, you can find useful tips about PC security, email scams and identity theft on the same Website.
This year I want you to bookmark the American Bar Association’s Web, safeshopping.org. They have a number of good tips and recommendations about things like complaints should you have a bad experience.
One last recommendation, Google “McAfee 12 Scams of Christmas” for some excellent tips about all kinds of scams that pop up at this time of year.
Happy and safe shopping to you this season!