Online Shopping: Where to Compare?

As a quick glance through the articles surrounding this one will show, these days, you’re unlikely to find an even halfway savvy consumer buying anything without looking around a little online first. Well, except for eBay auction items, maybe. In fact, I just bought a crummy camera posing as a much better one on eBay, and was so caught up in a small bidding war and in really wanting to get something good for cheap that I didn’t even look the thing up before entering the winning bid. But that’s different―I’m not an even halfway savvy consumer. Maybe a quarter way savvy, but that’s about it. I’m talking here about people who buy smart.

Except here’s the thing: what does it mean to buy smart, actually? I’m not comparison shopping is bad―not at all―but I do want to suggest that even a habit of comparison shopping doesn’t guarantee the ‘best buy’. Moreover, I suspect that doing all one’s comparison shopping online actually makes finding the ‘best buy’ less likely, especially if we really stop to think about what we mean by the ‘best buy’. Here is a personal anecdote to draw out the points I hope to make.

I moved to Paris almost two months ago―Paris, the shopping capital of the world! And I’m broke, working 70-hour weeks to live downtown in a 7th-story walk-up. Now, you might quite reasonably take issue with my life choices, but you cannot dispute that I’m in need of finding the ‘best buy’ with each purchase I make. Especially once you know that I’ve had to mostly furnish this apartment myself, and have been renovating it, too. Let’s re-cap: I’m broke, living in one of the world’s more expensive cities, surrounded by a plethora of options for every consumer decision, and am renovating and outfitting a studio apartment for as little as I possibly can.

So, the ‘best buy’ would seem at first glance simple: it’s whatever’s cheapest. Or, at second glance, it’s the cheapest option that I actually like. At a third glance, it’s more complex, but stays along these same lines: the ‘best buy’ is whatever item that feels like the best negotiation between what I want (from virtually limitless options) and what I can afford (with a more than a little restricted pocketbook).

In fact, though, the ‘best buy’ has come to mean something more than that for me. It’s not just about an item; it’s about an overall experience. The ‘best buy’ is that which offers the best interaction with my environment, balancing a delicate complex of factors: the standard price, style, quality, sure; but also a new experience, an interesting encounter with someone, seeing a different part of the city, some moral satisfaction with the purchase, even physical exercise.

Take, for example, the aforementioned (digital) camera. Now, that was not the best purchase, not at all. I bought it for about 80 Euros (~110 to 115 USD), and I didn’t check around in advance, and now I’m stuck with this lousy piece of thick plastic with awkward sliding mechanisms, no lens cover, and a wait-time of about half-a-minute after each photo. Not good. (By the way, that’s an Easypix S312―not recommended.) What’s worse, it just arrived in my mailbox one day; I didn’t even have to leave my house. I know that last part is something a lot of people value, but I don’t. Even if this had been a ‘good buy’ in terms of price and quality, it wouldn’t have been a ‘best buy’ because it gave me nothing, in terms of an experience of the world around me. After all, isn’t a large part of the historical value of trade―so often touted by subscribers to the system of capitalism―precisely its ability to bring people together, to motivate new movements? So, why on earth would I want to buy a camera online, eschewing the world of opportunities around me here in Paris?

Here’s the thing: I was comparison shopping at the time. I was checking out camera prices on eBay in order to know if I were getting a good deal on one here in town. Then, sadly, I got caught up in auction madness. Again, that’s not exactly a point against comparison shopping as such―it seems to have a lot more to do with my own psyche―but I suspect I’m not 100% alone in this particular tendency. Especially given what I hear and read about other people’s credit card debt.

Far better would have been―as I did for my sheets, my computer monitor and speakers, lamps, a coffee table, a toaster oven, and other sundries―to check on Craigslist (paris.craigslist.org) and to window shop. Because, see, here’s the thing: For every item I’ve bought from a private individual or at a shop somewhere along the way (some were bargains, and others were not), I’ve had an interesting interaction and have seen a little more of the city I live in. By exercising a little common sense in my purchases (and doing some budgeting), I really haven’t had or wanted to ‘comparison shop’ for most of my purchases, at least not in the sense of obsessive checking around on the internet.

A final example, and that’s it from me. I need a new pair of shoes, and I’ve tried both methods: hardcore comparison shopping through Internet merchants, and lots and lots of window shopping. The latter, almost needless to say, is far more pleasurable. As I stroll from place to place (and remember, I’m working my tail off; it’s not like I’m just hanging around the city), I stop here and there to check out a good pair in a window. Sometimes, if I have an extra moment, I’ll stop in, maybe even try on a pair. I’ve seen a lot of shoes I like―and, truth be told, I really need a pair; I don’t have any black ‘dress’ shoes at the moment, and that’s no good―but I’m not ready to buy just yet. I wouldn’t say I’m comparison shopping, exactly. I’m just waiting for the right pair to make themselves known to me. And that’s the way shopping should be.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/online-shopping-where-to-compare.html

Making Shopping Online as Enjoyable and Safe as Shopping at the Mall

With just a click of your mouse, you can buy virtually any product online―from electronics to gifts, clothing, food, and even cars and homes. The Internet has made it possible for consumers to shop at literally thousands of online stores, browse through dozens of products to find just what they’re looking for, and pay for their purchases without ever leaving home. For many people, e-commerce has completely replaced a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall.

There used to be many inherent flaws and risks associated with online shopping. Computer glitches caused orders to get lost, and poor customer service made it impossible to get problems resolved. Shoppers would often be at the mercy of cybercrooks always on the prowl to take advantage of their naivety and cheat them. But in recent years, e-commerce has become much more safe and secure, thanks to the growing competition of online shops, the security services that rate e-commerce sites, more advanced encryption technology, and shoppers increased Internet savvy. Things can still go wrong, but there are several things you can control that will make your online shopping experience a good one.

Shop at only secure websites.
Secure e-commerce sites use encryption technology to transfer information from your computer to the merchant’s computer. Encryption scrambles the information you send, such as address, phone number, and credit card numbers, to prevent hackers from obtaining the information as it travels from your computer to the store’s computer. The only people who can unscramble the encryption are those who have legitimate access privileges. Usually you can tell if a website is secure if the URL of the site begins with https://. The ‘s’ at the end indicates that the website is secure. You may not actually see the ‘s’ until you proceed to the actual order page of the website.

Research the website before you place an order.
Online stores that also have an established brick-and-mortar presence, such as Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and others, have websites that are very safe and secure. If the company is unfamiliar to you, do your homework before you trust them with your personal information. Reliable companies should display a physical business address and at least one telephone number. Call the phone number and ask questions to determine whether the business is legitimate. Ask any questions you may have, such as how they handle returns or complaints. You can also research a company by visiting ratings sites such as epinions.com, where other online shoppers write posts detailing their experiences with online shopping sites.

Read the website’s security policies and privacy statement.
Every reputable online shopping site provides information about how it processes your order, and what it does with the information it collects from you. The privacy policies should tell you what type of information they gather, what they do with it, and whether or not it will be shared with other companies. Often the merchant’s data security practices are also explained in the Privacy Policy. Look for online merchants who are members of a program that gives a seal of approval to safe online shopping sites. TRUSTe, Verisign, and BBBonline are the most commonly seen programs. Be aware that a security policy and a seal of approval do not guarantee that a merchant will protect the privacy of your information indefinitely. You may have little control over your information if the company files for bankruptcy, sells its customer database, is purchased by another company, or has to give up its customer information for law enforcement investigations.

Use a credit card if at all possible.
The safest way to shop online is with a credit card, because if something goes wrong you are protected. The federal Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you don’t have to pay anything on the balance while an investigation is being conducted. If it is determined that your card number was used without your authorization, you are responsible for only the first $50 in charges, but credit card companies rarely enforce this. The best approach to online shopping is to use only one credit card for all online purchases, so it will be easier for you to detect incorrect charges. Make sure the card is a true credit card and not a debit card, check card, or ATM card. Shopping by check is never a good idea, since it leaves you vulnerable to bank fraud, and sending a money order doesn’t give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase. Debit and ATM cards are not protected by federal laws the way credit cards are.

Never, ever give out your Social Security number or information not related to your purchase.
There is never any reason for an online merchant to ask for your Social Security number, so if they do, this should be a huge red flag to you. Giving out your Social Security number could lead to having your identity stolen. Additionally, some online merchants try to get more information about you to target you for marketing purchases. You don’t need to provide information about your other interests, lifestyle, or annual income. Usually websites will mark with an asterisk the questions you are required to answer in order to make your purchase, but if a company requires information you aren’t comfortable in providing, then don’t order from them.

Always print out a copy of your order.
After you place an order online, you should receive a confirmation page that details your entire order, including charges, customer information you provided, product information, and a confirmation or order number. You should print out at least one copy of this page, as well as the page showing the company’s name, address, phone number, and return policy. You may also receive a confirmation message in your e-mail, and you should save and/or print this message as well.

Pay attention to the company’s shipping information and return policies.
A company must ship your order within the time stated in their ad. If no time frame is stated, the merchant must ship the product within 30 days, or give you the option of canceling the order and receiving a refund. Be sure to review the choices offered for shipping, and be sure you know the shipping and handling fees before you place the order. Find out how the merchant handles returns or complaints, and whether or not you will get a full refund if there is a problem with your order.

Last but not least―listen to your gut instinct.
If, while browsing through an online store’s information, you get a feeling that you shouldn’t shop there, don’t ignore those warning bells. There is much truth to the adage that if something doesn’t sound right, then it probably isn’t.

One of the best rules you can follow is to shop only with companies located in the United States, so you will have some legal recourse if your purchase results in a problem. When you shop within the U.S. you are protected by state and federal consumer laws. You might not get the same protection if you order something from a company located in another country.

Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping―what was once frowned upon has now managed to gain acceptance with open wallets! Yes, while in the past we hesitated ordering things online, and most importantly questioned the safety of letting out our credit/debit card details on the Internet, now due to the safe and secure online market, the skepticism has vanished to a great extent. A recent study done by eMarketer confirms the truth of this statement. Their analysis predicts the growth of online sales in the United States to USD 434.2 billion by 2017, from USD 225.5 billion in 2012.

The year 2009 saw an extraordinary trend. While most industries suffered significant losses due to recession, the U.S. saw a significant rise in online retail of 11%, according to a report by Forrester Research published in March 2010. This just shows the popularity of the trend of online shopping in the past few years.

Online Shopping: From a Luxury to a Trend to a Necessity

The 90s proved to be historical for Internet shopping when the world was introduced to the ‘World Wide Web’. The pioneering online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay were launched in 1995, and they still continue to reign the kingdom of online retail market. Among the initial steps in Internet selling was the selling of books. What started as a trial-and-error strategy―with many people wondering the feasibility of the success of web shopping―today, has become a revolutionary industry worth billions!

With the consumer population becoming more and more tech-savvy, and with the technological excellence that has led to safe, secure, reliable, and satisfactory online transactions in the recent past, most people prefer to avoid the chaotic crowd of shopping malls, and opt for shopping from the comfort of their homes.

The Internet was once an option, and is now a necessity. Likewise, the virtual market has become more than a facility; it is now, in fact, a necessity. With irresistible advantages such as 24X7 access to shopping, free shipment, and home delivery, the online retailers have managed to acquire some loyal customers. Forrester Research state that the United States online retail industry is likely to be worth USD 279 billion in 2015.

Factors That Have Made Online Shopping a Trend

From the 90s till now, gradually people have accepted virtual shopping to be an easy and affordable way to get hold of things ranging from luxury items such as smartphones and laptops, to everyday items such as grocery and stationery. More and more stores are opening their own websites to enable consumers to shop online. There are various external factors that have contributed to the rising inclination towards virtual shopping.

The Social Media: While browsing through social network sites such as Facebook, have you noticed the ads that are displayed on the right hand corner of the webpage … attracting you towards the trendy branded clothes, jewelry, scents, and footwear? With sellers joining the social networking sites and creating their own pages, a study shows that almost 60% of online buyers used social media to discover, like, and follow retail sites in the past year. This strategy definitely helps increase the pace of product exposure with features such as like, share, recommend a friend, reviews, and more.

Smartphones and Tablets: With the increasing user base of smartphones and tablets, online shopping is not just confined to sitting in front of a PC. If you know what you want, shopping can be done while eating your lunch, while traveling to your work … while on the move! Another survey depicts that almost 10-15% of Internet traffic comes through mobile devices. A trend known as “show rooming” has been on the up lately. The buyers visit the physical retail stores to check out the products, browse the products online, compare prices, check the reviews on the websites, and buy the same product from an online retailer offering the best deal. Mobile apps of these retail stores also help the consumers know about the latest stock and sale going on, subsequently increasing the customer database and sales.

Crowded Shopping Destinations: While researching on shopping trends during Black Fridays, I came across various consumers who preferred shopping online rather than going out in the crowd with no parking spaces! This just shows that customers not only find it more comfortable, but also less chaotic to shop online rather than traveling all the way to the rushed shopping destinations, especially during sales. This drift has encouraged physical stores to focus more towards their service and hospitality to make customers’ shopping experience more comfortable and satisfactory.

Tech-savvy Users: Another contributing factor towards the hype in online shopping, is the majority of population becoming increasingly tech savvy. A fair amount of credit goes to the effort of sellers making online shopping not only a comfortable, but an overall safe and fun experience with alluring features such as cash on delivery, free home delivery, replacement plans, low price guarantee, gift cards, customer reviews, and more. In fact, many online retailers also give consumers an option to try their selected clothes, apparels, and footwear at home, and offer to do the necessary changes. There are also customer service numbers which enable the consumers to contact these retailers to clarify their queries. With all these features, online shopping has made the experience less complicated and tiresome for the users.

No Geographical Limitations: The one factor that has worked the most in favor of virtual shopping is the fact that users have multiple options that are not confined to any geographical boundaries, as is the case with physical stores. For example, if a book you need is not available in your city, you have no other option but to wait. In case of online shopping, if one website doesn’t have that book in stock, you will definitely get it on other websites. Also, online retail stores give you an option to set an e-mail alert when the product is in stock, so that you may complete your purchase.

What Lies Ahead …

By analyzing the aforementioned factors, it is evident that the virtual trend of shopping would only flourish in the near future. Unless the bricks-and-mortar stores don’t adapt to recent trends in e-commerce, and prepare themselves for the competitive strategies to attract online buyers, the future of traditional shopping seems to be under a potential threat. It is inevitable that online stores will have to become a compulsory feature of each and every traditional store that wants to be in the competition. In fact, a business website―which was an “added feature” till the recent past―has now become a prerequisite. Each and every business, other than retail stores is launching user-friendly and attractive websites to enable their customers to ask queries, make appointments, sales, cancellations, and the like, all through the website. With these strategic changes, buying and selling online is transforming from a luxury to a necessity.

Considering online shopping to be a solution for all shopping-related hassles would not be right. Like any other area, virtual market has its own cons, the most important one being the lack of a “physical presence”. At the end of the day, we humans are social beings, and shopping is considered by many, a means to socialize. It is normal for us to want the presence of someone who would approve with our choices, or help us make the right choice among the many options before us. Virtual shopping makes us “physically” more isolated.

Who would’ve thought, a few years ago, that the Internet would evolve from being something physically non-existent, to something that has now become an integral part of all the dominating aspects of our physical lives? The unlimited access that the Internet has provided to its users has made them more aware about the market. When it comes to online shopping, the most powerful marketing tool―the word of mouth―is what works the best. With social media, mobile apps, review sites, and sharing features, online buyers have become significant contributors in the total sales revenue. The target of the market is to find buyers and follow them where they are. Promotional ads and coupons are sent to consumers online; while offline, mobile messages are steadily delivered to their inbox, keeping them aware about what is “in store” for them. The world is functioning the quick and smart way, and e-commerce is a perfect example for reaching out to consumers even while they are busy and on the move.

How to Shop for Clothes Online

All of us have come across those beautiful dresses which are displayed in advertisements on websites on the Internet, haven’t we? The prices listed below the dresses not only amuse us, but also tempt us to buy them as soon as possible. These clothes are indeed one of the hottest selling items on the Internet, aren’t they? However, before temptation takes over, there are a few things you need to educate yourself with. There are a million websites all over the world that sell clothes online, so how do we choose the best? It’ll take us years to list all the websites that are considered authentic and diverse in their collection. The good news here is that you don’t need to look at so many websites. You can look at one website and judge it for its authenticity. Only and only if you think it’s not worth it, you can move on to finding another. The tips mentioned below will tell you how to shop for clothes online without risking your money and your expectations out of the bargain. Let’s check them out!

What to Keep in Mind While Shopping Online

Prerequisites
Buying clothes on the Internet has its prerequisites such as the knowledge of your physical statistics. You cannot possibly buy clothes off websites without knowing these. This is the basic information you should possess while shopping for clothes online. Again, it’s advisable for you to ask somebody else to take these measurements as that is how they are normally taken. If you take your measurements yourself, chances are they won’t be perfect as you would have to twist your body a few times to check the exact number of the tape.

Choosing
Choosing the right website should be your next task. Like I’ve mentioned before, there are so many websites that are involved in online shopping, it gets difficult to zero in on a few. Choose a website that has a record of selling a particularly good number of garments. Every website is going to show you beautifully clicked clothes but you also have to search for a website that provides you a lot of other information such as the name of the designer, the type of cloth used and more details regarding the styling.

Authenticity
Another great way in knowing how to shop for clothes online is by contacting the customer care center of that particular website you’re looking at. If the number is working and the customer support executives seem to be really well educated, you can bank on the authenticity of these websites to a larger extent. These executives will be able to guide you better than anyone else as the guidelines to be followed for shopping are different for different websites.

Additional Tools
A lot of people complain about the practicality of shopping on the Internet because according to them, these clothes can’t be touched, tried or even looked at in reality, as we do when we window shop! However, technology has advanced so much today that you can actually see how the dress of your choice looks virtually. There are websites that offer virtual model technology where you can customize the clothes you select according to your personal physical statistics. Some websites also allow you to customize the garments itself!

Suggestions
Ask/search for as many suggestions as possible so that you’re on a safer side before you actually start shopping. For example, choose websites that keep the identity and banking details of their customers hidden. Talk to people who shop for clothes on the Internet all the time or those who know people who do. Check enough reviews about the website you’re choosing. To reduce shipping costs and avail as many discounts as possible, order more items at one given time. Also, don’t forget to read the payment, return and grievances policy properly. If there are any conversions for currency, check those properly as well.

Now that know how to shop for clothes online, you can start looking at a few websites and implement these safe online shopping tips to keep your shopping secure. Try to check the authenticity of the websites you shop from, as many times as possible. Shopping on the Internet is slowly taking the idea of shopping to a completely different level. It’s always better to keep yourself updated with the latest trends in that case, isn’t it?

Where to Buy Cheap Stuff Online

In this economic turmoil, almost every single person in the US is apprehensive about taking out the big bucks for shopping. The economic recession was treated more like a lesson, and less like a disaster, which has made the average American smart and cautious about spending his dollars. Rather than going to shops and buying products on MRP, using the Internet for shopping is a much better and cheaper option. This article talks about online shopping, and also tells you the best sites to shop.

How to Buy Cheap Stuff Online

Every day we get at least one headline in the newspapers which tells us how bad the economic condition of the country is. Times are tough and the economy is stagnant. In such tough times, you have to cut down on your expenses to make ends meet. So, the most common question arising in everyone’s mind is, where to buy cheap stuff? There are two ways that you can buy cheap stuff, run from store to store in search of a sale, or shop online.

Most of us know that we can buy certain items cheaper online, and also have stuff delivered at our doorstep. When you browse through the Internet, you will find a number of online retailers who are selling all your favorite products; this makes the selling more competitive and prices are slashed even more. There are several ways where you can shop online for low prices. Log on to Google and you find a list of retailers who are offering your favorite products at the cheapest rates.

Where Can I Buy Cheap Stuff Online

The Internet is a wonderful way to explore the world. It not only gives you information on various topics from all around the world, but also saves your money by offering you the best deals on your favorite products.

Amazon
Most Americans who prefer shopping online choose Amazon as their favorite store. It was the first online retailer and is still a preferred website for most people in the world. It’s the best site for buying books and music at a cheaper rate.

Ebay
Called the Wal-Mart of the Internet, Ebay is something that you just cannot miss. Just keep your eyes open for any shopping that you do. Some retailers might over charge you for packing and shipping, while others are very reasonable.

Newegg
The best site to buy computer parts cheap is Newegg. They have a fantastic range of computer parts, and all are very reasonably priced. For free shipping codes have a look at the various computer magazines.

Bestbuy
Their prices, along with free shipping, makes Bestbuy a more preferred site than Amazon. They also offer the same range in computer parts as Newegg.

Geeks
To find the most unusual items for nerds and geeks, it’s better to visit the Geeks website. They also carry the most obscure computer software which you can find nowhere else. They could charge you more for shipping prices, so make sure you get a deal that includes the shipping price. The best way to get the best deal on geeks is to buy more than a piece. This way you get heavy discounts and if your lucky your shipping charges would be waived, which makes a good deal into a great deal.

There’s no doubt in the fact that you can get cheap stuff online, but you always have to be careful of the various scams that surround the concept of online shopping. Before buying from any website, don’t forget to read some safe online shopping tips to ensure a safe purchase.

Best Selling Online Products

When we speak of the best selling products, it is important to remember that not all of these can fetch you large amounts of money. By studying most online shopping trends and auction sites, you will find that books and DVDs are probably the bestsellers, but the chance to make a lot of money through these is virtually impossible. The reason for this is that the buyer may have limited choices for these when he is searching for it online, so he would rather go to a bookstore or a music store and pick out a new item of his choice. He ends up spending a few extra dollars but for him it is worth it. Why then, are these items still the most selling products on the web? Simply because they are easy to sell and ship. And no matter how illogical it is to carry out Internet shopping sometimes, there will always be a buyer. The volumes are extremely large doubtlessly, but the revenues are minimal.

List of Top Selling Products

Here are some of the most popular items that regularly change hands over the Internet. The buyers get these things to sell online cheaper than they would in the market, but the disadvantage is that there are no assurances about the quality and the state of the item in question.

1. Books and magazines
2. Computer hardware
3. Computer software
4. Apparel and designer clothes
5. Video games and toys
6. Cosmetics and health-related items
7. Consumer electronics
8. Music DVDs and CDs
9. Jewelry items
10. Office supplies and equipment
11. Home decorating items and linen
12. Flowers
13. Sporting goods and items
14. Shoes and footwear
15. Small electronic appliances
16. Tools and garden items
17. Gifts and other items

If you wish to make some easy money over the Internet, or are simply interested in making some trades for the sake of it through online auctions, you should certainly consider dealing with the stuff mentioned here along with a few more.

Some Statistics

Here are some interesting points and numbers.

– Total sales of all online trading was close to USD 3 billion for the year 2009.
– Books, music, software and videos comprised about 26% of this total. This roughly means that these items fetched around USD 710 million.
– Travel reservations, car bookings, airline tickets and hotel reservations comprised 21% of this total. Total sales were around USD 580 million.
– Computer related hardware and software, consumer electronics and office supplies sold about USD 450 million, and comprised 16% of total sales.
– Shoes, clothes, home decorations and jewelry got sold for around USD 350 million and comprised about 13% of total sales.
– Food and beverages and health products constituted about 8% of total sales, and their overall transactions were around USD 220 million.
– Sporting goods, video games and toys comprised 7% of the total and were sold for about USD 200 million.
– Other items like furniture, tools and small appliances were sold for about USD 95 million, and this made up approximately 3% of total online sales.

Now, if you’re looking to increase your volume of sales over the Internet, then, you need to offer something that either fits into one of these categories, or you need to offer something that is completely original and ingenious. If you can manage to offer something that is useful, economical, and not available at any retail stores, you can be assured of tremendous amounts of volume. Simply knowing how to sell stuff on the web is not enough. You need to find your niche, and then attack it by ensuring that everyone knows about your product and its availability.

Marketing the top selling items is not a difficult task, and the Internet is a great place for people to spread positive word of mouth. If even a single person is satisfied with what you are offering, and offers his/her approval, it will benefit you greatly. With a little bit of analysis, you can achieve success at a fairly rapid rate.

From a buyers point of view, all these high selling items are easily available, and you can purchase them at your convenience. The Internet has truly changed the face of trade, and it has made the process easier for many people. So, the next time you are in need of buying something, do give these components a second thought.

Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Not just the trend of buying goods and availing services online, but even the frauds associated with it are on rise. Technological advancement has given a major boost to e-commerce and other similar concepts, which revolve around computers and, more importantly, the Internet. The concept of online shopping is no more alien to anybody in the world.

Millions of people log onto shopping websites in order to make shopping a convenient affair. What they fail to understand though, is the fact that they are compromising on their security by not abiding by the rules that they need to follow. With so many cases of online frauds coming to light every other day, it is surprising to see people go on an online shopping spree without paying heed to their security.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Online shopping fraud is a broad concept, which includes a range of activities, right from hidden charges and phishing to credit card scams and identity theft. Given below are some simple precautions that you can take to keep yourself safe.

Carry out your transactions from a secured PC: You need to make sure that the PC you are using for shopping online and related transactions is up-to-date with security measures, like anti-virus software and firewall. Being one of the most important advice as far as safe online shopping is concerned, this will help you keep those malicious programs out of your transactions.

Be well-versed with the website you use: You need to make sure that the website from which you are buying goods or availing services is authentic. Never go to random sites that feature in search engine results, or ones that you have never heard of before. Always go for popular websites, as the chances of you getting caught in any sort of web of deceit on such websites are negligent.

Never give away your personal information: You will have to provide some information while shopping online, however, you need to make sure that this is just the general information, like your name or contact number. Never give out confidential information, like your social security number, on online shopping websites. More importantly, never fill in any sort of information in pop-up windows, even if you trust the website. Maintaining privacy while shopping online is a must, as giving away confidential information can make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Go through the privacy policy of the company: A trusted website is bound to have its privacy policy covering all the points whereby the website would be legally bound to keep your personal details confidential and giving away the same to the third party would mean breach of contract with possible legal implications. If any website doesn’t have their privacy policy in place, it is better off to stay away from it.

Paying by credit card is wiser: Always resort to credit card for payment options. Though many of us prefer to use debit cards for shopping online, they don’t have all the security features that credit cards do. More importantly, if your debit card number gets stolen, it will give hackers total access to your account and result in even more difficult situations for you.

Before you order the product: You need to make sure that the transactions are secured and the shipping policy of the company is in the place. Cross checking the actual price of the product and the shipping charges with other companies can help you get the best deal. Make sure that there are no hidden costs in the shipping charges. You will have to take into consideration the actual price of the item as well as shipping charges, handling fees, and sales tax.

After you order the product: Never reply to confirmation mails which ask for your personal details. Make sure that you take the print outs of all the online transaction records, which you can eventually use as proof. Other than all your transactions with the company, it is wise to save the product description as well. Lastly, you will have to monitor the time required for shipping. It is very important to get well-versed with terms and conditions before you buy any product online.

If, by chance, you do end up having a bad experience, you can report the company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the consumer protection agency in your area of jurisdiction. Considering that there are a number of phishing websites out there in the guise of shopping websites, it will take efforts from all of us to come together and make online shopping safe and secure.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/safe-online-shopping-tips.html

Maintaining Privacy While Shopping Online

You may not be aware of it, but there is currently no legislation that requires website owners and sellers to maintain the privacy of site visitors who shop online or order merchandise from them. Because there are no laws preventing it, sellers are free to collect your name, address, information about the websites and site pages you visit, what types of products or services you buy, what time of day you shop online, the address you ship items to, what shipping service you use, and even how much you typically spend on an online purchase. Sellers may use the information they collect about purchasers by selling it to other companies or sharing it with affiliates. As a result of losing this private information, you will most likely receive more direct-mail marketing, spam e-mails, and/or telemarketer calls.

Losing privacy is a major concern that consumers are worried about in terms of shopping online. In response to these concerns, government regulators are encouraging website sellers to clearly state on their websites what their privacy policies are, and how they will use information gathered from buyers. If you visit a site that does not have a posted privacy policy, you should think twice before placing an order with that site. A privacy policy should include the type of information the seller will gather based on your transaction, and how the seller is planning to use the information gathered. A privacy policy should offer you the option to decline acceptance (‘opt out’) of these policies. If you want to opt out, you should read the privacy policy thoroughly and look for instructions about how to opt out of accepting the policies.

But having a privacy policy posted online doesn’t necessarily protect you and keep your information private. Although you may be reassured by seeing a logo or seal of an independent monitoring agency that seemingly promises a private, secure transaction, you should also read the policy. Monitoring organizations may not dictate the privacy policy site owners must follow; they may only require the seller to abide by the privacy policy they have in place, whether or not it is a good policy. These organizations are usually not liable for anything if a seller does not follow the terms of its posted privacy policy. So if you see a monitoring organization’s logo on a website, you may want to visit the website of that agency to see how trustworthy they are and what kind of monitoring they do.

Many online sites contain programming codes that insert small files―’cookies’―onto your computer’s hard drive. Some websites require cookies for visitors to use the site or make purchases; some are used simply to identify site visitors; and some cookies are useful because they keep you from having to re-enter the same personal information every time you visit the site. But other ‘invisible’ cookies can actually keep track of the various websites you visit, the searches you do, the amount of time you spend on certain sites, and some can even obtain your e-mail address by the transactions you do online. Marketers can use this information to specifically tailor advertisements they send you. These cookies are typically referred to as ‘adware’. Another type of invisible cookie, ‘spyware’, is added to your computer when you go to download certain free programs or spend time on certain websites. These programs are not as harmless as regular cookies; although they can keep track of your online activities, they can also be used by marketers to track what you actually type, including personal information, without you knowing it.

Your web browser has preference settings to allow you to limit, or prevent, sites from installing cookies on your computer. There are also good software or even freeware programs that you can install, and they can warn you about any website that attempts to install cookies, spyware, or adware on your computer. You can choose to accept, refuse, or control these installations using the tools contained in the software. Some anti-virus packages contain these programs, and some ISPs offer them along with their service packages. For ultimate protection, you may want to install a ‘firewall’ to prevent unwanted intrusions on your computer.

When you purchase an item from an online seller, often they will offer to send you a confirmation e-mail detailing the transaction. Before agreeing to this confirmation e-mail, be sure to read the seller’s privacy policy so you will know how their procedure is handled. You do not necessarily need a confirmation e-mail as proof of purchase or proof of payment; usually you can simply print the final screen that appears at the end of your transaction, so you will have a record of the purchase.

Keeping a grip on personal information related to your activities online is just as important as keeping a grip on financial information you enter when making an online purchase. There are always unscrupulous people and companies watching every move website visitors make, and the information they collect can totally ruin your Internet experiences as well as risk ruining your identity offline. So before you click that Pay Now button to get a great deal, take a few minutes to read the site’s privacy policies and be sure you know what you’re signing up for.