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Your Complete Guide to Shopping Online Safely

Aug 17, 2007
In recent years there has been a huge boom in the amount of people shopping online. You can buy almost everything you need off the internet from your home groceries to the latest CDS and DVDs, as well as a hole host of hard to find items. Online shopping offers convenience in that you do not need to leave your home or office and that items are delivered directly to your door.

However, despite the advantages and convenience associated with online shopping there is still an air of confusion and distrust regarding shopping on the internet. Most of this comes from shock stories involving illegal transactions and added charges but the truth is that online shopping is generally more safer than physically going to the shops yourself.

A lot of concern about online shopping comes from people either misunderstanding the internet or the company you are buying from. As with high street shopping you should only purchase items from traders you perceive to be trustworthy. Look for traders you recognise or have heard about. Remember that if an offer seems too good to be true then to do some research before entering into an agreement.

Rest assured that when you enter your payment details that the transaction will generally be encrypted meaning that only the people who authorise your transaction - your bank - will see your personal details. The company you are purchasing from will not see these personal details. You may feel you have to enter a lot of personal details about yourself and the card you are paying on but these are all security measures designed to make online shopping safer.

Card Watch, the UK banking group that works with the police and retailers to stop credit card fraud, offer the following "top ten tips" when buying online:

1. Make sure your web-browser (that's the software that you use to view websites, most commonly Internet Explorer or Netscape) is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring. These options are not always automatically activated when your computer is set-up, so check your manual or the "Help" option.

2. Check you are using a recent version of your web-browser as they often include better security features - up-to-date versions can be downloaded free from the Microsoft or Netscape websites. If you have a different browser or use on-line services such as AOL or CompuServe, contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or software supplier to find out how to activate their security features.

3. Before purchasing from a website, make a record of the retailer's contact details, including a street address and landline phone number. If these details are not available on the website, consider going elsewhere to buy, do not rely on the e-mail address alone.

4. Do not enter personal details unless the security icon is displayed (this is a small padlock that normally appears at the bottom of your browser when you begin your transaction over the Internet). You can click on the padlock to see if the retailer has an encryption certificate. This should explain the type and extent of security and encryption it uses. Only use companies that have an encryption certificate and use secure transaction technology. The address of the page where you enter personal details should also start https://.

5. If you have any queries or concerns, telephone the company before giving them your card details to reassure yourself that it is legitimate.

6. Print out your order and consider keeping copies of the retailer's terms and conditions and returns policy. Be aware that there may well be additional charges such as postage and VAT. When buying from overseas always err on the side of caution and remember that it may be difficult to seek redress if problems arise.

7. Check statements from your bank or card issuer carefully as soon as you receive them. Raise any discrepancies with the retailer concerned in the first instance. If you find any transaction on your statement that you are certain you did not make, contact your card issuer immediately.

8. Ensure that you are fully aware of any payment commitments you are entering into, including whether you are instructing a single payment or a series of payments.

9. Never disclose your card's PIN number to anyone, including people claiming to be from your bank or the police, and never write it down or send it over the Internet.

10. If you have any doubts about using your card, find another method of payment.
About the Author
Self Safe discusses personal safety issues for you and your family. Find out more about how to keep yourself and your family safe by visiting http://www.self-safe.com/default.asp.
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