The Internet offers cybershoppers the convenience of shopping 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the comfort of their home and office computers and can be just as safe as brick and mortar stores and Mail order houses. However, consumers must learn how to identify online fraud so that they don’t leave themselves vulnerable to the same scams that are common to both online and offline shopping. Take the time to learn how to protect yourself from cyberspace crooks who can perpetuate scams quickly, leaving without a trace.
The following are some tips for shopping safely on the Internet
- Stop Hackers or unwanted predators from getting a hold of any of your PC’s files or operating system with products such as Mcafee – Personal Firewall or Symantec’s Norton Internet Security which offer advanced security technology especially if you are using an always on connection such as Cable or DSL. Also the Linksys Cable/DSL Routers give you the option of connecting multiple PC’s to the Internet with an Internet Firewall built-in feature. Also visit our Resources section at the bottom of this page for more information on protecting your children and family from unwanted visitors and Web Sites you don’t want your children to happen upon.
- Consider downloading a secure 128-bit browser, which will give you the best encryption technology or scramble purchase information. Also by downloading the latest 128-bit browser version of Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer, you will always have the latest most secure encryption technology available.
- Don’t be hurried into a sale by Websites looking for an immediate response or claims of limited availability. Take your time and research a company before giving your credit card information. If you wish to purchase an item and are afraid to put your credit card number online consider calling the company and giving them your credit card number over the phone. You can also print the product page you want and mail the company a cheque as another alternative to using credit cards.
- Never give your personal or credit card information by email to any unknown source in order to purchase something or sign up for a service. You have no way of knowing who that person is once they have your personal information
- Shop with trusted, well known websites. If you are interested in buying from a merchant you have never bought from before, check out the company’s physical location (Address and telephone number) so that you can check them out. It’s easier to reach a company who has a toll-free phone number and responds quickly to email enquiries. Beware of companies who don’t respond quickly to enquiries.
- Look for a privacy statement on any site you plan to shop from. Look for symbols indicating the site uses security technology which scrambles and encrypts your credit card number. For extra peace of mind, shop at sites displaying the VeriSign logo, or the Better Business Bureau logo, these sites are audited regularly to prove they are maintaining security measures properly. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all have zero liability policies, which means that if any unauthorized transaction appears on your statement, you don’t have to pay. Make sure you know what the merchant is doing with your personal information, and that they are not selling it to other companies, and also what they are doing to protect your credit card information. You may be liable to pay $50 if any cyber hacker steals your credit card information and uses it for his or her own purchases. Some websites will guarantee to pay you the $50 if your credit card information is stolen.
- Never supply personal information like your social insurance number or personal banking information. This kind of information is not required to make a purchase.
- Keep records of all transactions you have made in the event that something you have ordered does not arrive, or is the wrong item. Ask the merchant for a tracking number at time of purchase, so you can track your package yourself.
- Check out a merchants warranty and returns policies. Read the fine print before you click on the “buy” button. Make sure if the merchandise doesn’t fit, is the wrong colour, or isn’t what you thought it would be, the online merchant will take it back with no questions asked. Some merchants charge a restocking fee that can cost you as much as 20% of the sale and some won’t take returns back at all. Also check the merchants liability if something goes wrong with the item. Your credit card can afford you some protection: if a product is fraudulently advertised, damaged or defunct, you may be able to challenge the charge with your credit card company. Also find out if you can return an item to one of their physical stores or do you have to ship it back to the merchant and will the merchant pay the shipping or will you have to pay additional costs to return an item.
- Federal law requires that a merchant will ship the product within 30 days. Companies must alert you if their are delays in shipping, and get your approval or let you cancel your order, or receive a refund.
- Look for online seals to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. The seal verifies that a company is committed to it’s privacy policies.
- When you decide to make a purchase online, look for a “padlock” in the bottom of your screen which will show that the padlock is locked meaning your credit card information is safe to use, and also look for an “S” in https:// in front of the URL in the top of your screen, which is an additional sign you are in a secure page for sending secure credit card information.
- Look for a Toll Free Phone Number so that you can contact a company with any questions you may have before ordering, or if you do not wish to use your credit card online you can use it over the phone.
- Consider Using an E-Wallet. Services such as Microsoft Passport, BMO MasterCard Wallet and the Royal Bank Royal Pass, let you electronically carry your ID and billing information from site to site, sparing you the trouble or reinputting your name, address and credit card every time you make an Internet purchase. All your information is kept on a secure server so it’s safe. Note: Not every retail site is compatible with e-wallets, so you may not always be able to use it.
- If you have had a strange or suspicious experience on a website, like an individual prompting you to send them your credit card information, or asking you to respond to a get rich quick scheme, you can report it to the Better Business Bureau Also Note: If you have not yet experienced buying something on the Internet, you probably will at some point take the plunge and open yourself up to a whole new experience. Good luck and safe shopping