Safe Online Shopping

Many people nowadays seriously consider shopping online as an option. Shopping with just the click of a mouse is quite convenient especially if you are not a fan of weekend window shopping. However,as much as advancement in technology makes our lives easier, it brings with it numerous concerns-some that literally threaten our dear lives. The internet is one of the greatest inventions so far, but it is just like an African open-air market full of mad men-hackers. The question is,do we stop using the internet? The answer is obviously NO. We can only put in place measures that will ensure our online security. This page is dedicated to ensuring that you do not lose your hard earned cash nor your identity to fraudsters. In regard of that, below are things you should consider the next time you go shopping online.

NB.  The first fundamental way to check whether a website is secure is to check for;
    (a) a closed padlock displayed at the bottom of your screen. If that lock is open, you should assume it is not a secure site.
    (b) an unbroken key at the bottom of the page
    (c) a https://
At the top of your screen where the Website address is displayed, you should see https://. The "s" that is displayed after "http" indicates that Web site is secure. Often, you do not see the "s" until you actually move to the order page on the Web site.

1.Shop from companies you already know. 
If the company is unfamiliar, try to get info on their services before buying their products. If by any chance you get to buy something from an unknown company, start out with buying a cheap product for purposes of risk reduction.
2. Check the company's contact details and try them out.
Reliable companies should advertise their physical business address and at least one phone number, either customer service or an order line. Call the phone number and ask questions to determine if the business is legitimate. Many legitimate companies have a "live" answering service, especially if they don't want to miss orders.
3. Ask how the merchant handles returned merchandise and complaints.
 Find out if it offers full refunds or only store credits.
4. Shop using your Credit card.
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card. In case something goes wrong, you are protected under the  Fair Credit Billing Act. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you can withhold payments during a creditor investigation. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorization, you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge. It is also important that you obtain one credit card that you use only for online payments to make it easier to detect wrongful credit charges. Make sure your credit card is a true credit card and not a debit card, a check card, or an ATM card. As with checks, a debit card exposes your bank account to thieves. Your checking account could be wiped out in minutes. Further, debit and ATM cards are not protected by federal law to the extent that credit cards are. Online shopping by check leaves you vulnerable to bank fraud. And sending a cashier's check or money order doesn't give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase. Never pay for online purchases by using a money transfer service. You could be transferring cash to a fraudster. Fraudsters will always ask consumers to send them payment using a money transfer service such as Western Union or Money Gram because they can get your cash fast and it’s difficult to trace them. Legitimate sellers normally do not ask consumers to send payment that way. Money transfer services should only be used to send money to people that you know well, not to unknown sellers of merchandise online.
5. Read the Web Site's Privacy and Security Policies.
 Every reputable online Web site offers information about how it processes your order. It is usually listed in the section entitled “Privacy Policy.” You can find out if the merchant intends to share your information with a third party or affiliate company. Do they require these companies to refrain from marketing to their customers? If not, you can expect to receive “spam” (unsolicited email) and even mail or phone solicitations from these companies. You can also learn what type of information is gathered by the Web site, and how it is — or is not — shared with others. The online merchant’s data security practices are also often explained in the Privacy Policy, or perhaps a separate Security Policy. However, be aware that a strong privacy policy and membership in a Web-seal program don’t guarantee that the Web merchant will protect your privacy forever. Policies can change.
6. Be Aware of Cookies and Behavioral Marketing.
 Online merchants as well as other sites watch your shopping and surfing habits by using "cookies," an online tracking system that attaches pieces of code to our Internet browsers to track which sites we visit as we search the Web. "Persistent" cookies remain stored on your computer while "per-session" cookies expire when you turn the browser off. Online merchants use cookies to recognize you and speed up the shopping process the next time you visit. You may be able to set your browser to disable or refuse cookies but the tradeoff may limit the functions you can perform online, and possibly prevent you from ordering online. Privacy advocates worry that as more and more data is compiled about us — without our knowledge or active consent — it will be combined to reveal a detailed profile, even our actual identities. This data is often collected to market goods and services to us, encouraging us to buy them. There are a number of companies that specialize in targeted online advertising called "behavioral marketing." Companies say consumers benefit by being exposed to more targeted advertising and that online merchants can make more money more efficiently by targeting the right shoppers.
Fortunately, there are several ways that you may be able to defeat dynamic pricing. Obviously, do not log in to a site before you obtain a price quote. Be sure to clear the cookies from your browser before you visit a site. Visit sites from different browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, and others). Utilize price comparison sites that check prices from multiple vendors. Finally, if you do log in to a site, try leaving items in your shopping cart for a few days, to see if the merchant offers any discounts. 
 7. Disclose Only the Bare Facts When You Order When placing an order. 
There is certain information that you must provide to the web merchant such as your name and address. Often, a merchant will try to obtain more information about you. They may ask questions about your leisure lifestyle or annual income. This information is used to target you for marketing purposes. It can lead to "spam" or even direct mail and telephone solicitations. Don't answer any question you feel is not required to process your order. Often, the web site will mark which questions need to be answered with an asterisk (*). Should a company require information you are not comfortable sharing, leave the site and find a different company for the product you seek.
8. Keep Your Password Private 
Many online shopping sites require the shopper to log-in before placing or viewing an order. The shopper is usually required to provide a username and a password. Never reveal your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your birth date, mother's maiden name, or numbers from your driver's license or Social Security number. Do not reuse the same password for other sites, particularly sites associated with sensitive information. The best password has at least eight characters and includes numbers and letters.
9. Check the Web Site Address and avoid links in E-mails.
 Above the web site at the top of your screen is a rectangular window that contains the web site address (also called the URL, or Uniform Resource Locator). By checking that address, you can make sure that you are dealing with the correct company. Don’t click on any link embedded within a potentially suspicious email to combat phishing. Instead, start a new Internet session by typing in the link’s URL into the address bar and pressing “Enter” to be sure you are directed to a legitimate web site. Don't Fall for "Phishing" messages. Identity thieves send massive numbers of emails to Internet users that ask them to update the account information for their banks, credit cards, online payment service, or popular shopping sites. The email may state that your account information has expired, been compromised or lost and that you need to immediately resend it to the company. Some emails sent as part of such “phishing” expeditions often contain links to official-looking Web pages. Other times the emails ask the consumer to download and submit an electronic form. Remember, legitimate businesses don’t ask for sensitive information via email. Don’t respond to any request for financial information that comes to you in an email. Again, don’t click on any link embedded within a suspicious email, and always call the retailer or financial institution to verify your account status before divulging any information.
10. Always Print or Save Copies of Your Orders After placing an order online.
You should receive a confirmation page that reviews your entire order. It should include the costs of the order, your customer information, product information, and the confirmation number. We recommend you print out or save a copy of the Web page(s) describing the item you ordered as well as the page showing company name, postal address, phone number, and legal terms, including return policy. Keep it for your own records for at least the period covered by the return/warranty policy. Often you will also receive a confirmation message that is e-mailed to you by the merchant. Be sure to save and/or print this message as well as any other e-mail correspondence with the company.
11. Pay Attention to Shipping Facts.
 Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its ad. If no time frame is stated, the merchant must ship the product in 30 days or give you an "Option Notice." This gives you an opportunity to cancel the order and receive a prompt refund, or agree to the delay. Here are key shipping questions to ask: Does the site tell you if there are geographic or other restrictions for delivery? Are there choices for shipping? Who pays the shipping cost? What does the site say about shipping insurance? What are the shipping and handling fees, and are they reasonable?
 12. Learn the Merchant's Cancellation, Return and Complaint-Handling Policies.
 Even under the best of circumstances, shoppers sometimes need to return merchandise. Check the Web site for cancellation and return policies. Be sure to check for the following: Who pays for shipping? Is there a time limit or other restrictions to the return or cancellation? Is there a restocking charge if you need to cancel or return the order? Do you get a store credit, or will the company fully refund your charges to your credit card? If the merchant only offers store credits, find out the time restriction for using this credit Does the merchant post a phone number and/or e-mail address for complaints? How long has the company been in business? Will they still be around when you need them? Is there an easy, local way for you to get repairs or service? Is there a warranty on the product, and who honors that guarantee? What are the limits, and under what circumstances can you exercise your warranty rights? Don't expect less customer service just because a company operates over the Internet. This is especially important if you are buying something that may need to be cleaned or serviced on occasion.

More tips will be added with time.

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