Online Shopping Tips From Stay Safe Online

The following tips have been taken from the Stay Safe Online group, which is dedicated to helping us all stay safe when using the Internet.

We thought they were very good tips to also keep in mind as you get back into the swing of things after the holiday break.

Think before you click

Beware of emails, texts or other promotions that seem “off” or encourage you to urgently click on links. If you receive an enticing offer, do not click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company’s website to verify the offer is legitimate. If you can’t find it on their website, report the scam to your email provider as a phishing attempt. Remember: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Do your homework

Fraudsters are fond of setting up fake e-commerce sites. Prior to making a purchase, read reviews to hear what others say about the merchant. Check trusted sources, like the Better Business Bureau, as well.

In addition, look for a physical location and any customer service information. It’s also a good idea to call the merchant to confirm that they are legitimate.

Consider your payment options

Using a credit card is much better than using a debit card; there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes awry. Or, you can use a third party payment service instead of your credit card. There are many services you can use to pay for purchases – like Google Pay – without giving the merchant your credit card information directly.

Watch what you give away

Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete your transaction. If the merchant is requesting more data than you feel comfortable sharing, cancel the transaction.

You only need to fill out required fields at checkout and you should not save your payment information in your profile. If the account autosaves it, go in and delete the stored payment details after the purchase.

Keep tabs on your bank and credit card statements

Be sure to continuously check your accounts for any unauthorized activity. Good recordkeeping goes hand-in-hand with managing your cybersecurity.

Another tip for monitoring activity is to set up alerts so that if your credit card is used, you will receive an email or text message with the transaction details.

Why You Should Avoid Using A Debit Card When Shopping Online

If you shop online (and these days, who doesn’t?),  you’ll want to make sure you use a credit card instead of a debit card to protect yourself from online scams and rip offs.
The biggest advantage credit cards offer is a buffer for payment. By law, your maximum loss if your credit card number is stolen is $50, and most credit card companies and banks will cover the entire cost.
When you use a debit card, the funds come directly out of your bank account, which means you might have trouble disputing the charge if you get scammed or if you are not happy with the product or service you purchased.
Here are some other tips to make shopping online safer:

Research your merchant before buying. The Federal Trade Commission maintains a web site ( that provides many buyer’s guides, lists of tips, and links to helpful resources.

Make sure you are on a secure web site before you give your name, address or credit card details. Look for a padlock or a key symbol in the bottom corner of your screen.
Never send your credit card number in an e-mail because it can easily be stolen.
Frequently check your credit card statements for suspicious entries. If you spot anything strange, contact your credit card company immediately to question the charge.
Call the company before placing an order. See if a real person answers the phone and how difficult it is to get someone live. Ask for their return policy for damaged or inadequate goods, expected delivery dates, shipping and handling fees, and after-purchase support.
Think before you buy. If the online advertisement or junk e-mail offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
If you have any reason to be suspicious, you are better to err on the side of NOT buying.
Watch for hidden extras added on at checkout such as postage and packing costs, and handling fees.
VAT and customs charges for goods from overseas can add greatly to the final cost, so double check your order before you hit the final submit button.
Read the company’s privacy policy carefully. Make sure you uncheck any boxes giving the vendor permission to sell or share your information with other vendors, especially your email address.

How To Shop Online More Safely And Securely

These tips can help you determine that you’re shopping at a secure and trustworthy website.

Look for signs that the business is legitimate. Buy only from reputable stores and sellers. Here are some ways to check.

Find out what other shoppers say. Sites like or BizRate have customer evaluations which can help you determine a company’s legitimacy.

Look for third-party seals of approval. Companies can put these seals on their sites if they abide by a set of rigorous standards such as how personal information can be used. Two seals to look for are the Better Business Bureau seal, and the TrustE certified privacy seal.  If you see the seals, click them to make sure they link to the organization that created them. Some unscrupulous merchants will put these logos on their websites without permission.

Look for signs that the website protects your data. On the web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an “s” after http in the web address of that page. This shows that the web page is encrypted. Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it traverses the Internet.

Also make sure there is a tiny closed padlock in the address bar, or on the lower right corner of the window.

Use a filter that warns you of suspicious websites. Find a filter that warns you of suspicious websites and blocks visits to reported phishing sites. For example, try the SmartScreen Filter included in Internet Explorer.

Keep your web browser updated.

It helps protect you when you shop online.