About the Author

Christine Ferguson

Christine Ferguson

Christine Ferguson is the Vice President and Co-Owner of Ferguson Computers in Bullitt County, KY. She helps small business owners with website design, search engine optimization (SEO), and email hosting.

How To Be Safe While Shopping Online

Young woman holding a credit card in front of a laptop

On Cyber Monday millions of people will turn to the Internet in search of the best deals as they ramp up (or wind down!) their holiday shopping.

Before you get out your credit card, take a minute to refresh yourself on the best practices to use while shopping online.

Choose Reputable Online Retailers

The Internet has expanded the retail landscape and has fostered a healthy amount of competition for our hard-earned consumer dollars.

However, not every online store should be trusted. It is very simple to set up a website and make sales online, but how do you know you will receive quality products, genuine prices and reliable customer service?

  1. Look for shipping & return policies. Every retailer should have clearly posted and clearly detailed information on how they deliver their goods and services and how they handle returns.
  2. Look for a privacy policy. Many people neglect this very important page, but all reputable sites should include a privacy policy that states how they gather and use your information when you visit their website.
  3. Look for an about page. Most legitimate businesses are eager to educate their customers about their company and their brand. They want you to know who they are so you trust them and give them your business.
  4. Use well-known retailers. Amazon, Walmart, Target and other similar vendors are established and trustworthy businesses. You can have confidence that they will stand by their products, honor exchanges & returns, and that they are taking measures to securely process your online transaction.

Be On Guard Against Scams

Hackers and other nefarious agents will prey on your desire for a good deal. They are skilled at making themselves appear legitimate to gain your trust and then steal your personal or financial information.

  1. Beware of phishing emails. Phishing is when someone pretends to be a real institution in order to trick you into giving them your personal data. This data could be your username, password or credit card information. If you receive an offer via email, avoid clicking on any links within the email message. Instead, go directly to the company’s website. If it is a company you have never heard of, do a Google search of the company name to determine whether they are credible.
  2. Be careful with your search results. Malicious websites will use black hat techniques to rank higher in search results for popular queries. Often they will target phrases like “Best Cyber Monday Deals”. Be sure to look at the URL and meta description in your results page before clicking on a link. The URL will be the website address, such as https://www.target.com/CyberMondayDeals. The meta description is the information listed directly beneath the URL. It gives a summary of what is on the webpage. Often the URL and the meta description can give away spammy pages before you visit them.
  3. Look for the green padlock. All legitimate online transactions should be handled using SSL encryption. When a website uses SSL you will see a green padlock icon and the word ‘Secure’ in the address bar. You should also see HTTPS in front of the URL instead of HTTP. Many websites are moving toward SSL encryption on all of their pages, but it is still common to see websites that only use SSL for their shopping carts. Before you enter any personal or financial information into an online form, look for the green padlock!

If the offer seems too good to be true…it probably is!

These are just a few things to keep in mind while shopping online. Most of all, use common sense and trust your instincts.

If a deal seems fishy, it’s not worth risking your hard-earned money or your identity.

Happy shopping!

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