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Are You A Smart Cyber Shopper?

 By Mira Khatib


With the Internet turning the world to one global market virtual shopping has become one of the most popular means of purchase. If you haven’t tried it yet, you are sure missing out on good deals, convenience and almost unlimited choices.  Sure, there are things that you have to see, touch or try before buying, but with the instant access of information offered online and from the comfort of your own home makes cyber shopping a very handy and appealing approach.

Instead of being restricted to the stores with in driving distance, by shopping online you have access to abundant number of products 24 by 7, a shopaholics dream come true.  Shopping on the Internet is no less safe than shopping in a store or by mail, but to make most of your cyber shopping experience you need to keep in mind the following tips.


Look for signs of security

First thing is first; the most important step for a successful online purchase is a secure Internet connection. Your browser should comply with industry security standards, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transmission (SET). These scramble the purchase information you send over the Internet, helping to secure your transaction. You can tell if this technology is in use when the Lock icon at the bottom of your web browser window is closed.


Know whom you are buying from

Now days anyone can set up a shop online under any name. Your safest bet is to deal with retailers you know and trust. If you are not familiar with the merchant it is a good idea to check out the sellers information and services a good way to do that is to request a catalog. Make sure to take note of a physical address and contact number not just a post office box. Also check if the site offers a consumer protection agreement. 


Read the return and refund policy

Find out how do you return unwanted merchandise and how long do you have. Will you receive a refund? And who pays for return shipping? Are all things you need to know before hand that will save you a lot of hassle.


Check out good offers but with a skeptical eye

A great place to hunt for bargains is on the Internet, but be wary of deals that appear too good to be true. If you have any suspicions it is best to call the merchant and make sure there are no hidden costs, if there is no number listed on the site, then take your business elsewhere.


Is it what you bargained for?

Make sure to check out the shipping costs, especially if its urgent delivery. Prices can go up and make it cost more than what you would pay in the retail store itself. Some sites offer free or discounted shipping purchase over a certain amount, which can make all the difference.


Keep your private information protected

Almost all reputable sites have a privacy policy that explains what they do with the customer information given; some companies sell this information to a third party. Take the time to go through it. Don’t give our personal information such as your address, telephone number, or e-mail address unless you know who is collecting this information and how they will use it. Don’t provide unnecessary information by filling out the optional fields, if for any reason you don’t agree with the policy, exercise your right to “opt out” and don’t shop at that site. If you cannot find a policy, send an email or written inquiry to ask about the company’s policy and ask for it to be posted on the site.

Be password smart

When it comes to choosing your password be very creative. Use an unpredictable combination of numbers, letters and symbols. If you use a password to log on to your computer, make sure to choose a different one to make a purchase. And under no circumstance give your password to anyone who contacts you even people who might claim to be employees of online services or stores.


Pay with your plastic

Paying with your credit card is both easy and safe. You are offered the same protection using your credit card online as you are if using it in a store or placing an order by phone. You are liable only for US $50 if your card is used fraudulently. You can also challenge charges and withhold payment in the event of a dispute with a merchant.


Keep a record

Make sure to print a copy of your purchase and keep your confirmation number for your records incase of a problem arising with your purchase. Keep a written record of all costs including shipping and handling costs and the amount of items you purchased.


Easy as ABC

Don’t think that you can out smart the Internet and its many hackers. Make the right choices to make most of your virtual shopping experience. Keep in mind your security and best interest and always ask these three significant questions:

About me: what is the information being collected about me and is it secure?

Benefits: how is this information going to be used and will it benefit me.

Choices: what are my choices that are offered by the company in the way it will use my personal information? Can I opt out and how?


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