How to shop online Safer & Cheaper than offline
- Author Inga Mikhlyn
- Published July 5, 2007
- Word count 1,592
From personal 6-year experience of Internet shopping AND
running an on-line business, we assure you that 99.9% of horror
stories about on-line credit card fraud are completely obsolete.
These rumors have been mostly born at the Stone Age of Internet
era, and today are plain wrong, because security technologies
have drastically improved.
And now, avoiding on-line shopping is kind of like trying to get your
food by buying meat directly from a butcher, bread from a bakery,
milk from a milkman and fish from a fisherman, each of whom is
located in a different end of your city.
The bottom line is - you can and should shop on-line for many
products, if you value your time, money and safety.
You surely understand why you can save plenty of time this way.
But you may still be wondering how prices on the Internet might
be cheaper than in traditional stores, and how it can be safer
to buy on-line.
It's simple. First, there is A LOT of competition on-line.
Merchants will simply go out of business, if they don't offer
the best prices they can. Because their competitors are only
ONE CLICK AWAY!
Second - most on-line stores operate ONLY as mail order
businesses. It's a huge advantage for you as a client, because
they don't pay expensive store rent, and often keep very little
inventory. So, they can and do invest the "spare" money into
offering better prices.
At the bottom of this email, you'll also learn how to get the
best deal by comparing prices of mainstream products. It takes
one click of your mouse button to compare prices in tens
of on-line stores, and also see their "customer satisfaction history".
And now, let's talk about security, and using credit cards
There is ONE common feature to all cases of credit card fraud.
If your credit card number is visible to human beings - it's NOT
safe. That's why many people, at least once, have been victims of
credit card fraud. Overcharging by credit card, or a classic case
of stolen credit card number in place such as a restaurant,
supermarket or gas station.
The rule is simple. The more people CAN SEE your credit card number,
the more chance that eventually it will be stolen. And as you may
have already guessed, they mostly get stolen not by sophisticated
computer hackers, but by regular thieves. Employees on drugs, etc.
The best issue about on-line shopping is that almost all normal
on-line stores charge you automatically, at the very second
you click on "Confirm Order" button. No one actually SEES your
credit card details in this case.
In the majority of on-line stores everything is so automated, that
only their credit card processor and your bank can actually view
your entire credit card number. Often even store owners are unable
to see the entire credit card number. Only its last 4 digits.
Also, all decent stores without exception use 128 bit SSL
encryption. So at the moment your information is being transmitted
over the Internet to credit card processor, it's strongly encrypted
and nearly impossible to "hack". And who would bother, when
there are easier, OFF-LINE methods, to steal credit card info?
That's why smart on-line shopping is actually Safer than buying
in regular stores.
And now you're welcome to read a set of very simple rules
one shall follow when shopping on-line. Use them, and we wish you
to become a huge fan of on-line shopping! It can save you
plenty of time and money.
- Buy from reputable sellers:
This is the BEST rule to follow, that almost replaces the
others. Because when you buy from a reputable business with
lots of happy customers, clearly it will cherish it's
reputation above all, and take all possible and impossible
measures to protect your personal information. It will also
make sure that you receive exactly what you have ordered,
in the promised time-frame.
A great way to check the reputation of an on-line store is to
read it's guest book, or any other alternative "public place"
where existing customers share their experience. Take a few
minutes to read these feedbacks. If there are plenty of
great recent comments from customers and subscribers, and
you feel they're real - it's a very good sign.
The vast majority of good online stores have a guest book,
AND/OR use a 3-rd party store feedback services like
BizRate, e-PublicEye, Better Business Bureau, Trust-E,
e-Opinions etc. Yet, there are some good online stores that
just didn't guess to offer such "evaluation" feature to
their potential customers. You may still do some great
shopping there. Just be sure to follow all next rules
- Buy from stores that "look like a well-maintained,
fully functioning business":
First, take a look at the site. Forget the stupid idea about
not judging by appearance. Appearance is important, because
a good business person would never allow his storefront to
scare away customers. It doesn't need to be a piece of art from
a designer's point of view. But if the site is absolutely
uncomfortable for navigation, or just looks like a 10 year
old kid's masterpiece - STAY AWAY from that store.
Another great indication is the language used to describe
everything - from products to help section. All texts should
'read' like they've been written by a normal, literate person -
not an obvious senior school dropout.
If half of the web site images or pages aren't loading, it's
also a big sign saying "NEVER BUY HERE". Of course, we're
not talking about temporary ISP problems that every site
faces once in a few months. But if a store looks neglected -
it's a bad place for shopping.
- Make sure that you can contact the store. A contact form or
email address must be listed. A decent store will also list
the company address.
Also, if you've emailed a relevant question about a product,
ordering procedure or shipping, and the merchant doesn't
respond within 2 business days - it may be wiser to order
somewhere else. But keep in mind - we've noticed that really
large stores often don't answer their emails at all. It does not
necessarily mean that you will experience any problem with
their products or delivery. But still, it may be wise to buy
from smaller merchants, and benefit from better service.
- Most "safe shopping" instructions say that one should
ensure that they respect your privacy and don't sell or
share your information. In theory, this is very legitimate
advice. But personally we never read all these papers,
because from our experience, no business in it's right mind
shares it's customers info with anyone. If everything else
looks good, we rush to order, without wasting time on
reading endless legal papers. Usually just check that
these pages exist. But you may think in a different way, and
read these documents more carefully.
- Take a look at the return policy. For tangible items, a
normal store that stands behind it's products would offer at
least a 30 days m-oney b-ack g-uarantee. Of course, for software
products all sales are usually final, for understandable
reason. In this case, appropriate guarantee for technical
support is more than enough. Also, if a company sells
software - see if there is a downloadable Demo version.
Many companies offer 15 to 30-day demos and evaluation
freebies, to let you see the level of their software products.
Like our free designs archive.
- Be sure to check that product delivery information is
clearly stated, and fits your time-frame needs. Some shops
even gift wrap, so if you want to mail a gift directly to
a recipient - consider buying from a merchant that offers
- Of course, price is important. And for most mainstream
products, like electronics, you can easily compare prices
from multiple on-line stores with a single click of a button.
There are many sites offering price comparisons. Personally
we use the good old Froogle.com (it's a division of
Google). Try it. You'd love it. Of course, avoid being too
greedy. It's a good idea to pay a few extra dollars and
purchase an item from a store with a great reputation, even if
the same item is available from a worse store at a slightly
lower price. Avoid unrated stores whenever possible, and RUN
AWAY from ones with bad ratings...
- If you've come as far as to the page where you enter your
credit card number - MAKE SURE that the order form is SECURE:
You should see a picture of yellow lock on the bottom right
hand side of your screen. This lock symbol means that the order
form uses SSL encryption, making it impossible for hackers
to steal your credit card information. Another way is to
check the web address of the order form. It should begin with
ALWAYS, ALWAYS send credit card information over the
Internet ONLY using a s-ecure o-rder f-orm. Never send credit
card information by email, or using NON-encrypted forms.
- If your order was processed successfully, you should
understand this at once. First, you should be redirected to
some kind of "Thank You" page, telling you that the order
was processed. Second, you should receive a payment receipt by
email almost instantly.
If you don't receive email notification, it is possible that
your email box just didn't let that message inside your
mailbox, thinking that it's "spam". Yet, make sure that
everything is OK by contacting the store to verify that they
received your order successfully.
There are no posted comments.
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