Originally published on July 13, 2020
Online shopping has many perks. You avoid traffic and can shop anytime, plus you’ll choose from a wider selection than what you might find in a store. But while there are many benefits, you need to make sure you aren’t leaving yourself at risk. Whether you’ve been shopping online for years or have only recently started, we can all stand to become more savvy online shoppers.
Seek Out Trustworthy Retailers
Keeping your personal and financial information secure while shopping online is of utmost importance. Take the time to determine if the website you’re using is legitimate. New trends in scam websites are popping up as online shopping needs increase.
Be wary of websites that seem “too good to be true” or are offering unrealistic deals on products you can’t find elsewhere, like cleaning or household supplies, or goods that may be in limited stock at other stores. These are often scam websites designed to access your personal and financial information. If it’s not a legitimate merchant website, then once you submit your order, they’ll have your credit card or banking information but may never ship the item. To prevent this from happening to you, stick to reputable online retailers, or purchase from retailers that have brick-and-mortar locations in addition to retail websites.
If you’re unsure about a retailer or a website, look it up on the Better Business Bureau’s website. You can check out more details about the seller or business, including ratings and types of complaints received. For even more reliable resources, use referrals from friends or family that may have dealt with the company in the past.
Avoid Buyer’s Remorse
A downfall of shopping online is that you won’t be able to see or touch the product prior to purchasing, which can make it hard to verify if the item meets your needs. Take the time to do appropriate research by visiting multiple websites and reading customer reviews. The knowledge you gain will give you a better idea of what you’re buying and will help you avoid disappointment after you receive your item. Understanding all of the details about the item is especially important for larger purchases, like furniture or exercise equipment, that may be harder to return. Take time to read the item’s specifications, measure your room or space before purchasing furniture, and find out if the item will require assembly that you may not be comfortable completing.
If the item isn’t exclusive to one retailer, you may be able to shop around for the best price and gather more details about the product, like the item’s measurements or materials used. Doing additional research will reduce the hassle of returning an item and avoid any associated fees from the retailer, such as a restocking fee.
Once you’ve made an online purchase, save your order confirmation, just like you would with an in-store receipt. This involves keeping all transaction records and shipping details. Most of your confirmations will be electronic, so a good practice is to create a dedicated email folder for online orders, where you can easily reference the information.
Mark your calendar for when you expect the delivery to arrive. If your item is not received within the timeframe provided by the retailer, reach out immediately. An increase in online shopping needs can create longer shipping times and other delays you need to monitor.
Keep Your Accounts Secure
Many online retailers require you to create an account on their website before making a purchase. To keep this account secure, use complex passwords and avoid storing your credit card or bank account information on the website. For a more secure password, use a combination of letters and numbers and avoid using personal information or common words. If someone gains access to your account on a retailer’s website, they can access your saved financial information, or even change the shipping address and order merchandise at your expense.
Keep an eye on financial accounts used for online shopping to make sure no fraudulent activity occurs. By keeping your online order information organized, you can easily reference the order details and confirm the transaction has posted. Set up account alerts to monitor your bank accounts or credit cards. These alerts aren’t just helpful notifications about your account activity. They’re also a secondary method for monitoring your account frequently and another way for you to identify fraudulent transactions or account changes you didn’t approve.
PSECU offers over 30 different account alert options, including transactional alerts for withdrawals or deposits, debit card usage, bill payer notifications, and overdraft notices. Account alerts can be received by text or email, giving you instant updates on your account activity.
For more tips on safeguarding your money, visit psecu.com/learn.