Seven tips to easy, safe online shopping

Love an online shopping spree? Here’s a quick guide to easy safe online shopping.

There’s virtually nothing you can’t buy online today. From clothes and food, to gadgets, plants and holidays. But while buying in seconds online from your laptop or phone may be quick and easy, the convenience of online shopping can easily lead you to buy something you may later regret.

Or, you can get seduced into buying a bargain that turns out to be anything but when it finally turns up on your doorstep.

Here are seven tips to help you to stay safe when shopping online.

1) Always use a secure internet connection

Reputable online shops use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to encrypt all data during transmission.

It’s easy to tell if your preferred online shop is using this technology – just look for a “lock” icon (it’s usually in the top right side of your web browser window). You can also check if the online shop is secure by taking a look at its web address. The web address should start with “https”.

Also, avoid online shops that ask for your credit card number or other private information through email. 

2) Shop with online stores you know

It’s not just big brands that sell online. It’s worth checking whether your favourite local retailers also have an online store.

One advantage of shopping with your trusted retailers is that they usually allow you to return merchandise to their stores instead of shipping it back.

Buying from an online store you trust also gives you peace of mind. Some online shops, especially the ones you haven’t heard before, may cheat on you by shipping you a damaged or incorrect item. Or the item you receive may bear little resemblance the picture on their site!

3) Always look for coupons and discounts

One advantage of shopping online is that it’s often easy to find bargains. Many online stores offer coupons and discounts, as well as often having a clearance section.

To get a discount, you usually need to enter a coupon code in the order form, and the total purchase price will be deducted. 

And luckily there are plenty of newsletters and websites like CouponDad.net that you can sign up for or visit, and search through thousands of coupons for a wide range of stores.

4) Be wary

While many online stores will hold sales and offer discount codes, be wary if something seems too good to be true.

If an online store seems too cheap for the value of their products, or an online offer looks just a bit too generous, then do some investigation before you buy.

Look for independent reviews of the store, and scan the comments on their social media pages. Do they have any disgruntled customers complaining? You can even search “<store name> scam” and see what appears.

5) Check the shipping fees

If you’re buying a physical product online, then the vendor will need to ship it to you. And some ‘bargain’ stores try to claw back profit by charging more for shipping.

So before you make your purchase, check the shipping or delivery page on the online store to find out how much they charge for sending it to you (and how long it takes).

Some stores offer free shipping if you spend over a specific amount. And it’s also worth checking coupon sites to see if they have any free shipping voucher codes for your favourite online stores.

6) Protect your personal information

Reputable online stores will take steps to protect your privacy. They’ll often post a privacy policy which explains how they protect customer information.

It’s wise spending a couple of minutes reviewing the privacy policy. If you don’t agree with it (some online shops sell data to third party sites), then avoid doing business with the site.

Even if you agree with their privacy policy, make sure you don’t provide any unnecessary personal information when filling out your order form. Don’t give information that isn’t asked in the order form.

7) Review the return and refund policies

Before you click ‘buy now’, check the return and refund policies of the online store.

What happens if your goods are damaged, don’t fit, or not as described? How can you return them? Will you get a refund for them? And will they cover the cost of your return return shipping or not?

A reputable online store will have this information clearly displayed. And if their return policy isn’t favourable, then it may be best to take your business elsewhere. 

Don’t get carried away by a bargain

It’s easy to get carried away when online shopping, especially when you comes across a bargain.

But to avoid disappointment, before you part with your hard earned money just take a couple of minutes to check the reputation of the store you’re buying from, and their shipping and return policies. And also check whether they offer any discount codes.

By following the seven tips above you can shop wth confidence – and look forward to enjoying your purchases.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill