Online Shopping Safety: Saving Angel's Top Tips

December 8, 2011 10:54:53 AM PST
Shopping on the Internet this holiday season? You're not alone!

The National Retail Federation surveyed shoppers and found that the average person will do 36 percent of their shopping online - compared to 33 percent last year.

Three percent may seem like a small figure until you consider the fact that holiday shopping is a $466 billion economic event.

Cyber Monday is a popular shopping day but only represents a small percentage of the overall holiday Internet shopping activity. In fact, Cyber Monday isn't even the most popular Internet shopping day of the season. In years past, the second Monday of December (known as "Green Monday") was the largest Internet shopping day to date. This date (around ten days prior to Christmas) also ensured packages will be delivered on time for December 25th by most online retailers.

Just as shopping in a large department store can be overwhelming, shopping online can feel like even more of a labyrinth. If you are shopping from a list and are looking for particular items, a search at, or is a great place to start. These sites will search across many different retailers to find the best prices - even while factoring shipping.

With all this cyber commerce, there is, unfortunately, the chance to fall victim to a scam, over-exposure of your privacy, or make a purchase that turns out to be a bad deal. Josh Elledge from says to follow these ten tips to stay safe this holiday shopping season.

1. Make sure your computer is updated before starting your e-commerce adventure. This includes checking for updates to your browser, antivirus, and spyware protection. Updates to browsers almost always include features which make browsing more safe and secure.

2. Consider a separate credit card or virtual card. Although Credit Cards generally offer very good protection for consumers, if you want to play it very safe, consider a separate account to better track your purchases and limit exposure to your balance. You may find this strategy helpful for staying on budget as well if you have a limited balance to work with.

3. Use popular shopping aggregators rather than a google search for products. Google search results can include anything. If you are selective while using shopping search engine such as, or, you'll be more likely to stick with reputable stores - especially if you pay attention to user reviews. Consider paying a dollar or two more if it means working with a much more reputable store. It may end up being worth the investment.

4. Look for signs that the business is legitimate. Look for a better business bureau seals. "Truste" is another popular seal that shows that the business is legitimate. Make sure you click through the seal to verify the site is truly registered - and not just showing the BBB image on their site. Also, google the business and look for legitimate reviews. A little detective work will pay off.

5. Look for signs that the website protects your data and ensure you are on the correct site. This includes making sure you see an "https://" at the beginning of any page that collects your personal information - particularly your billing information. Also, double check that domain name in your address bar. Scammers can register a name that looks like a legitimate site - but might be one character off.

6. Read 3rd party reviews. This goes for products and the store itself. Searching the shopping search engines listed above will help with this. Be wary of fake reviews. Yes. They exist - but with some experience and a bit of skepticism, you should be able to sniff these out.

7. Maintain your privacy. Set up and use a secondary email account for shopping. Uncheck boxes for being communicated with if you aren't interested in receiving email from a business. I would generally always uncheck the box regarding being contacted by partners. There are no limits to what you will receive if you ask for this communication from many sites.

8. Understand terms and conditions. You know that text that you scroll through to get to the "submit" button? Read it. To be very safe (especially with lesser-known stores) print it. You may need to refer to it if you should happen to have a problem with your purchase.

9. Keep records. Print all confirmation pages - or email the pages to yourself if you are sure the information will display in the email. I will generally just select everything on the page and copy it into an email manually. Don't count on an email confirmation to arrive as your only proof of purchase aside from your credit card statement. You may need this information later

10. What to do when the package arrives. Open all shipping boxes and verify their contents. Double check them against your records. If you can, open the packaging to see that the product works. If you need to do an exchange, you'll want to do this as soon as possible.


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