Online shopping and internet crime - it just had to happen. After all, shopping online is a booming business with nearly 150 million American consumers and over $210 billion being exchanged in cyberspace. While so many of us have quickly adapted to this new retail channel for its convenience,selection and good deals; we aren't the only ones to have taken note of the opportunities in this new world. Just like in the days of the wild, wild west, bandits have recognized the rich opportunities inherent in this new cyber world.
While today, we don't have to worry about all the things that come with shopping downtown from parking tickets or door-dings in our car or tired feet or pick pockets or getting the flu from a frenzied shopper; the threats we face in online shopping are a good deal more serious. Does that mean we should stay away from online shopping until the cyber cops catch all the bad guys? Not at all; sadly we will always have bad guys, so while the cyber cops do their best to catch todays villains, we can securely enjoy all the benefits of online shopping as long as we take a few simple precautions.
First of all, make sure your computer is secure. Today the cyber thieves can actually plant "key logging" software into your system that tracks the keys struck on your keyboard to gain your credit card or bank passwords so they can steal from you. This means that even if the online retailer is legit, you're still at risk. The best protection is to keep your browser and operating system updated and to make sure you have an up-to-date security program working hard to protect you.
Second, we all get all kinds of email from who-knows-who offering you something you really can't live without. Make it a rule that you never click on any links in an email from someone you don't know, but rather manually place their URL into your browser and see what you get. You can also do a search for their business name plus (use the + sign) "scam" and see what that tells you. If they appear to be doing business rightly, then take a look at the offer. Another really smart thing to do is a few minutes of research on Epinions,com or Google Shopping. Maybe the safest thing is to stick with the Amazon, Ebay, Yahoo Shopping, Retrevo or BizRate sites.
The third precaution is another common-sense kind of thing that happens every day - to the delight of the bandits of the internet; don't ever give your credit or debit card information to a site that isn't secure. How can you tell? You may have noticed that on all the well-respected selling sites they'll have "https" (not just "http") on the checkout page url. the "s" stands for secure and it means that it's safe from those pesky online thieves. One more thing, almost anyone can make a page copying logos you're familiar with - like your bank's logo - but a counterfeit is still a fake so don't trust logos alone, look for the "https".
Next, no matter how legitimate a site appears to be, you just can't get casual about responding to a site's request for your checking account or social security numbers. Make it a habit (that you never break) to pay online using credit cards or PayPal. Credit cards will forgive fraudulent charges (legal mandate) to your card and PayPal - the best, free online money transfer service pays for your purchase and charges your credit or debit card without the website never seeing any of your credit or debit card information.
Fifth, be sure you know the whole price not just the price of the item but the shipping, handling and (if applicable) the sales tax that you will be charged. In addition, be sure you understand the merchant's return policies including the time limit for returns and what you need to include in the return.