Shopping online does carry some risk, but so does shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. At least online shoppers don't need to worry about fender-benders in the parking lot, pick pockets at the mall, or getting the flu from all those fellow shoppers.But the nice thing about shopping online is that by following some basic guidelines you can be reasonably sure you'll have a safe experience.
Secure your PC:
The first thing you need to do is be sure your computer is secure. Trend Micro's education director David Perry, says that "bad guys these days are operating by planting a keylogger on your system that listens in, surreptitiously waiting for you to use your credit card or your bank password so that they can steal your money." So, even if you're dealing with a legitimate merchant, you're at risk if your computer is infected. Your best protection from these attacks is to keep your operating system and browsers updated and use a good and up-to-date security program. If you're getting or giving a Netbook or other PC for the holidays, make sure that security software is installed right away. Most security companies offer a free-trial version that will tide you over for a month or so, but be sure to subscribe so you get ongoing protection.
Click with care:
You're going to be getting a lot of offers via e-mail this holiday season. While they might be legitimate, there is the possibility of some offers coming from criminals trying to trick you into giving your password to a rogue site or visiting a site that can put malicious software on your computer. Your best protection is to not click on any links--even if the message looks legitimate--but to type in the merchant's URL manually.
Know the Merchant:
If you're not familiar with the merchant, do a little research like typing its name (and perhaps the word "scam") into a search engine to see if there are any reports of scams. Look for user reviews on sites likeEopinions.com. Look for seller ratings if you locate the merchant through a shopping search engine likeGoogle Shopping.
Pay by credit card:
Credit cards offer you an extra level of protection including the right to "charge back" if you feel you're a victim of fraud. The credit company will investigate your claim and permanently remove the charge if fraud can be proven.
Know the Real price:
Be sure you understand the actual cost of the item, including shipping, handling, and sales tax. That can have an enormous impact on the final price.
The policy, according to the American Bar Association'sSafeshopping.org, should disclose "what information the seller is gathering about you, how the seller will use this information; and whether and how you can "opt out" of these practices."