7 rules for secure online shopping

September 30th, 2011 Mark Sandvig

With the click of the mouse, shoppers can buy nearly any product online – from groceries to cars, from insurance policies to home loans. According to Forrester Research, 60% of U.S. consumers shop online at least once per quarter. And while that percentage continues to grow, there is still widespread concern about the safety of financial and personal data online.

Although many are willing to shop online because it is convenient and a time-saver, the prospect of sending personal or credit card information over the internet is a bit unsettling. After all, the last thing you want is for someone to utilize your personal financial information for their own gain.

We’ve put together 7 simple rules that you can follow to ensure your online shopping experience remains secure:

Rule #1: Know who you’re buying from.

It’s pretty easy to set up an online store. Before you submit any financial information, confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. It’s always safer to stick with big brands that you know are legitimate businesses.

Rule #2: Shop from a secured website.

There are two simple ways to determine if you’re on a secure website:

  1. Look at the top of your browser where the website URL is displayed. If you see https:// at the beginning of the URL, the site is secure. If you see only http:// then the site is not secure. Keep in mind, however, that you will often not see the “s” until you move into the online checkout process.
  2. The closed padlock is another indicator. If you see a closed padlock displayed at the bottom of your screen, the site is secure. If it is open, assume that it is not a secure site.

Rule #3: Know what you’re buying.

Read the description of the product carefully – including all the fine print. It’s important you understand exactly what you are purchasing so there isn’t any confusion when you receive the item. Also, keep an eye open for words like “refurbished,” “gently-used,” “vintage” and similar words that can be indications that the product may be in less-than-perfect condition.

Rule #4: Understand the terms of the purchase.

It’s important you know the terms of your purchase, such as refund policies and delivery dates. If you want to return an item, who will pay for the shipping costs? How long should you expect to wait until you receive the product?

Rule #5: Print out important documents.

It’s important you keep a paper trail when it comes to online purchases, such as your receipt, product descriptions, emails you may have sent and received from the seller and more. This will allow you to address any issues that may arise.

Rule #6: Read your credit card statement.

Monitor your credit card statements as you receive them and be on the lookout for unauthorized charges. Catching these types of purchases early is critical.

Rule #7: Don’t fall for free online trials.

Stay away from free online trials that require you to provide your credit card information. Even if you cancel within the 30-day period, often times people will still be charged. Also, it can be very troublesome to find the contact method to actually cancel the free subscription.

When it comes to online shopping, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Take your time to ensure you are dealing with a reputable seller that you can rely on.

About the author

Mark Sandvig is Mortgage Banking Officer at MidWestOne Bank. NMLS number: 641615

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