Month: January 2015

Online Shopping Tips: E-Commerce and You

1. Introduction

By just clicking a mouse or touching a screen, shoppers can buy nearly any product online — from groceries to cars, from insurance policies to home loans. The world of electronic commerce, also known as e-commerce, enables consumers to shop at thousands of online stores and pay for their purchases without leaving the comfort of home. For many, the Internet has taken the place of Saturday afternoon window shopping at the mall. Consumers expect merchants to not only make their products available online, but to make payments a simple and secure process. However, the same things can go wrong shopping online as in the real world. Sometimes it is simply a case of a computer glitch or poor customer service. Other times, shoppers are cheated by clever scam artists.

Just as shoppers should take measures to protect themselves in brick-and-mortar stores — such as protecting their PIN numbers when checking out and not leaving purses unattended — online shoppers also need to take sensible precautions. This guide offers advice on how to make your online shopping experiences enjoyable and safe.

2. Shop at Secure Web Sites

How can you tell if a Web site is secure? Secure sites use encryption technology to transfer information from your computer to the online merchant’s computer. Encryption scrambles the information you send, such as your credit card number, in order to prevent computer hackers from obtaining it en route. The only people who can unscramble the code are those with legitimate access privileges. Here’s how you can tell when you are dealing with a secure site:

  • If you look at the top of your screen where the Web site address is displayed (the “address bar”), you should see https://. The “s” that is displayed after “http” indicates that Web site is secure. Often, you do not see the “s” until you actually move to the order page on the Web site.
  • Another way to determine if a Web site is secure is to look for a closed padlock displayed on the address bar of your screen. If that lock is open, you should assume it is not a secure site.

Of course, transmitting your data over secure channels is of little value to you if the merchant stores the data unscrambled. You should try to find out if the merchant stores the data in encrypted form. If a hacker is able to intrude, it cannot obtain your credit data and other personal information. Be sure to read the merchant’s privacy and security policies to learn how it safeguards your personal data on its computers.

Read more