This week’s question is about online shopping. What are the benefits and is it safe? It is super convenient and affords easy comparison shopping and you can make it safe(r). There are opportunities for fraud and theft online, but you can limit your exposure by being alert and cautious.
Let’s start with convenience. As an example, consider a fairly common purchase for me, a computer, whether laptop or desktop. I have purchased computers in three different ways in the last 10 day. One I bought at a local brick and mortar store after comparison shopping between three possible outlets. Three PCs I bought at a big box store in another town not far from here; essentially cherry picking the best values in that store and matching them to clients needs. The last one I bought online from one of my usual suppliers and I finished that project with order confirmation and expected ship date before breakfast. Hands down the most convenient purchase was the online one. Of course I knew what I wanted and I had other prices and parameters fresh in my head, but pulling the trigger on the transaction was very simple.
What about comparison shopping? Well as you may expect you can go online for that. I find it especially helpful to use online tools for items that I don’t buy often and my own knowledge base is not too large. There are a myriad of online comparison shopping sites but PriceGrabber usually scores high in shopping tests. Others to try include Yahoo! shopping, Shopping.com and NexTag. In addition to the comparison sites, some retailers let you compare and sort their offerings by price and other filters.
Now to security! Let me just admit that there is no electronic financial transaction that is absolutely 100% safe. However, you can manage your electronic business safely by observing a few common sense protocols. You know from previous columns that I recommend strong, unique passwords for all your bank accounts and that you log out each time you access any of same. If you use a bank card for online purchases use a credit card rather than a debit card as credit cards afford better protection after purchase. Secondly, don’t give out your credit card numbers to every Tom, Dick or Harry in the e-tail business. I do a fair amount of e-tail business and give my credit card number to only my top three suppliers; but aside from that I use PayPal. PayPal exercises due diligence with financial transactions and you have some recourse for transactions gone sour. That way you don’t have to have your credit info scattered all over various e-tail sites that may or may not exercise vigorous control of your info.
Bottom line, the added convenience of online shopping far outweighs the security risks for the savvy shopper. Be aware, but shop!
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