Friday, November 19, 2010


Can you believe its that time of year once again? The holidays are approaching quickly and that means holiday shopping. And since buying gifts online has become much preferred over crowded malls, seems this is the perfect time for some reminders on how to safely shop online. So, as you curl up next to your laptop with a cup of hot chocolate and your credit cards, here are some simple, but very important, tips to keep in mind:
  • Be sure you are shopping on an encrypted site. How would you know? One clue is by looking at the web browser's address bar. If the page begins with "http" then you are not. Make sure the page you are on begins with "https". That little "s" indicates the site uses Secure Sockets Layer protocol which simply means it is encrypted, thus safe.
  • Check for online reviews. You can use Google, but don't forget the Better Business Bureau website, as well.
  • Many sites will have a Trustmark like BBB or VeriSign. These can easily be loaded on a site, so click on the logo in order to verify they are legit and current.
  • Beware of using your laptop in un-secured locations. That cute little cafĂ© may seem like a relaxing place to do your online shopping, but make sure their wi-fi is secure.
And, here are a few more tips provided by the FBI website. If anybody knows what to watch out for, its these guys:
  • Use caution when dealing with companies and individuals from outside your own country.
  • Purchase items online using your credit card, rather than a debit card. That way if something does go wrong, you can dispute the charge.
  • Be cautious when responding to special offers through unsolicited email.
  • If you are suspicious, obtain a physical address, rather than post office box, and a telephone number. Call the seller to see if the phone number is correct and working.
  • Send an email to the seller to make sure the email address is active.
For the most part, shopping online with your credit card is safe. But, as with anything else, use common sense and proceed with caution. And, no matter how much due diligence you follow, bad things sometimes happen. So be sure to check your monthly statements to ensure all charges are in fact yours. If there is something you do not recognize or know is not yours, contact your bank immediately. This means you should always keep a list of your credit cards, credit card numbers and toll-free numbers in case your card is lost, stolen or compromised in any way. And this should go without mentioning, but be sure to hide this list in a very safe place.
With these little tidbits of advice, you are ready to shop, right? Well, as long as you have done this one last, but most important task. Set a budget. Make sure you know what you can spend and when you’ve reached that limit. The last thing you need is a monster credit card bill landing in your mailbox come January.
Happy Holidays!