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10 steps guide for Smart Online Shopping

Let’s face it, there’s every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind-boggling. The shopping is secure. Shipping is fast. Even returns are pretty easy, with the right e-tailers. Shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers.But what about the bad guys who lay in wait? There are reports that use of phishing attacks (where thieves attempt to swindle you out of your sign-in credentials and even credit card info by pretending to be a real website, or even an online bank) is down, as much as eight percent since the second quarter and 11 percent since the third quarter of last year. That’s great news—except the same report says sites with malware (malicious code aimed at compromising your privacy) has increased by 89 percent since the second quarter.Stay calm. While somewhat alarming, these stats should not keep you from shopping online. You simply need some common sense and practical advice.Online shopping: Smart way of cyber-shoppingAmazon Daily deal: Products at throwaway pricesShop online safely: Guidelines to practice a secured transaction on internetFlipkart: Hub of apparels, utilities, electronics and lifestyleLifestyle: Indian retailer chain promoted by the Landmark GroupBiba: Women’s and girls’ ethnic apparel collectionFollow these basic guidelines and you can shop online with confidence. Here are few tips for staying safe online, so you can start checking off items on that holiday shopping list. Enjoy shopping…1. ENSURE THAT YOU KNOW THE IDENTITY, LOCATION AND CONTACT DETAILS OF THE ONLINE RETAILERThere are online companies whose brand name is recognizable, such as Amazon and Flipkart. Additionally, many real life stores like Lifestyle and Biba now include an online retailing arm as part of their retail services and you already know their reputations. It is important, however, to establish the identity of lesser-known online companies who do not have instant recognition or external store status. In this case, it is important to look for the name, company registration details for your country, contact details that include an e-mail, postal address and telephone number and a clear indication of where the company’s headquarters is based.2. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT A COMPANY’S REPUTATIONAfter looking for these signs of identification, it is a good idea to ensure that the company has a good online reputation. Do not assume that just because a store in the real world sells things one way that their online service will be as good. There might be a risk of lacking service back up or returns policies etc. for online purchases that do not exist if you buy direct in the store.Reputation can be checked via searches of the internet for comments from others on consumer review sites. Many reputable online companies allow people to rate their service and products on the site itself, for example computer and camera stores. You can read these reviews for yourself to decide.Another way to determine an online company’s reputation is to check for complaints through a consumer affair’s bureau, such as the Better Business Bureau. Such organizations can give you more details about a company, including any complaints. In addition, you can always phone or e-mail a company the first time you purchase something and ask questions.3. FIND OUT ABOUT BILLING, GUARANTEES AND DELIVERY BEFORE YOU BUYAlways look for the additional costs and payment details before sending credit card details. Look for:

  • Packaging costs – these should be evident up front
  • Delivery costs – these should be evident up front
  • Whether you will be billed before or after delivery of the products
  • Whether you can track the item from the moment of purchase to arrival at your door – this will help alert you of any hiccups in the delivery
  • Whether the product comes with a guarantee or warranty for defects etc.
  • How you can return the product if it doesn’t work or meet your expectations – look for information on the site about cancellations, returns and refunds. Print off a copy for future reference.
  • Who will bear the cost of returning the item (postage, fees etc.)
  • If there is a cooling off period for large price items

4. READ THE SITE’S PRIVACY POLICYReputable companies will be open about how they collect data from you and what they do with it. Many now also belong to web-seal approval or trust mark programs that set out guidelines on the treatment of your information. Look for a privacy policy and learn about whether the company uses your information beyond the purchase transaction, for example, to email you with updates or deals etc. or if it passes on information to third party merchants. This is how you can end up getting spam mail if you are not careful. At the end of the day, you must make your own decision about how much information you are prepared to give.5. ONLY USE SECURE WEBSITES IF YOU ARE TRANSFERRING FUNDS VIA THE SITEOnce you’re happy with the company you are purchasing from, ensure that your credit card details are going to be processed using a secure connection. The most common form of secure encryption is known as Secure Sockets Layer or SSL for short. SSL encrypts data and breaks it up into small pieces so that the information cannot be read by anyone wanting to intercept it. To check that your place of purchase is using SSL or secure technology there are a few things to look out for in your Internet browser:

  • Depending on your browser settings you may receive a message stating that you are entering a secure area. The secure area normally begins on the first page where you enter personal details.
  • Most often the address bar in your browser will change from starting with http to https. The “s” indicates the site is secure. But note that often you won’t see the “s” until you are on the order page itself.
  • You can also look out for a padlock symbol in your browser symbolizing the page is secure. The padlock should be closed. If it is open, assume the site is not secure.
  • An unbroken key may also be present on a secure website.

6. TAKE CARE WHEN ENTERING INFORMATIONBe sure to enter the correct details when typing in your order. An incorrect address, amount of items or wrong item code can cause many difficulties. Always review the information before pressing send.7. USE A CREDIT CARD WITH ONLINE FRAUD PROTECTIONJust in case all else fails it pays to know the policy for online fraud protection offered by your credit card company. Many credit card companies offer protection against purchases made without your consent and have special clauses to include online purchases.8. INSTALL A PHISHING FILTERThere are various phishing filters, like Smart Screen Filter in Internet Explorer, which will help protect you from phishing sites by warning you when it detects a distrustful website.9. RECORD PURCHASE DETAILSAfter purchasing your item, always record the details of the time, date, receipt number, and order confirmation. If you cannot print one off, take a screenshot as a form of proof of purchase.10. BE AWARE OF EMAIL SCAMS DESIGNED TO PART YOU FROM YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATIONEmail frauds that are designed to gather personal information such as passwords and credit card details are known as phishing emails. The idea is that thousands or hundreds of thousands are sent out in the hope of reeling in unsuspecting victims and getting them to part with confidential information. The emails appear to be from well-known companies and can look quite convincing. However, legitimate companies, including all banks, will never send you an email with a link requesting your login, password, or credit card details. If in doubt, type the web address of the company it relates to directly into the browser rather than following the email link.

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