Well the answer is, “it can be” and sometimes even safer. “Well, I just don’t believe that”, you might say and if you read my article in it’s entirety I will try to explain my stand on this.
First let me tell you a little about my online shopping background. I am an experienced online shopper and yes I have had my credit card information stolen but, believe it or not, it was stolen before I ever used it online. I have been on both sides of the fence also; I have purchased products online and sold products online (both as a storefront and on auction sites). I will be happy to say I have had very few instances where I have been skeptical about purchases I have made online and never has my skepticism outweighed the money I save by shopping online. Below you will find the major points to online shopping safety.
1. How do I decide whether a shop is legitimate?
2. What can I do to make sure that I don’t get ripped off?
Just like in the real world, there is no guarantee that you will never be ripped off. However, there are things you can do to eliminate the chances of it happening to you. Make sure to read all terms of service, privacy policies, and shipping policies on a shops site before making a purchase. When purchasing from a shop and you are to the point where you are filling in personal information (i.e. address, credit card number, etc.) make sure that there is a little lock icon at the bottom right hand side of your browser and that the start of the address is “https://” instead of just “http://”. This shows you that you are making a transaction over a secure and safe connection. You can even click the lock to get even more information about the security. Always read all the fine print when making a purchase and make sure to print your receipt or confirmation as this could be your proof of purchase when making an inquiry to the store if there are any issues with your purchase.
3. Should I pay with cash that way they can’t get their grubby little hands on my credit card number?
I always use a credit card to make purchases online because I have the added protection of the credit card company. Credit cards are the absolute safest way to purchase because you have the legal right to dispute transactions made on your card. Along with my bank, the credit card companies will usually just return your money to you and go after the store or person who made the fraudulent sale. You should check with your card provider and I think you will find that they have a great policy on settling fraudulent transactions for you.
When you use cash or a money order with a fraudulent company or individual, they can essentially “take the money and run”. Does this mean I should never use a check, cash, or money order? No, it doesn’t. It just means you don’t have as much recourse if you end up getting ripped off and extra precautions should be taken.
4. What do I do if I do get ripped off?
First thing you do is cancel your credit card number if you think your credit card info has been jeopardized. This can be a simple call to your bank and explain to them your situation. They will usually work with you and pursue the store or individual who committed the fraudulent activity. If you used cash or a money order there are still things you can do but getting your money back may be a bit tougher. You should always report fraudulent activity to the proper authorities including the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org), the National Fraud Information Center (fraud.org), and anywhere else you can file a complaint.
If you believe there is an identity theft problem visit [http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/] for more info on what to do.
So yes there are bad things that can happen when shopping online but as with any shopping you can eliminate the risk by making informed decisions on whether you are shopping at a genuine and honest shop. You still haven’t answered how online shopping can be safer than traditional shopping. Well here is my take on that and it is strictly a possibility. You enter a brick-and-mortar shop and you find what it is you are looking for. The shop is respectable and well known in town. You head to the cash register and you hand the cashier your credit a card. He/she then swipes your card and has you sign the receipt. You leave the store. A few days later you find out that the person that was working the cash register was new and somewhat greedy sold several credit card numbers with the personal information that was available as well as copies of your signature from the receipt. This “cashier” step in the transaction process is normally bypassed when making online purchases.
You got to the online store?find your item?make the purchase over a secure connection with your credit card directly through a merchant service to your bank. In a brick and mortar shop it is similar with an additional step like this. You visit the local store?find your item?hand your card to the cashier? the purchase over a secure connection with your credit card directly through a merchant service to your bank. In the second instance an extra set of eyes are in the transaction. This example is not to make you more afraid of traditional shopping just to make you more comfortable with online shopping.
I hope I have helped you understand how to make safer online decisions and please shop safely.