Last Updated on September 11, 2020 by Corinne Schmitt
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Navy Federal Credit Union. All opinions are 100% mine.
These tips for shopping online will help you enjoy the benefits of online shopping without putting yourself at risk. Learn how to get great deals, avoid disappointment, protect your personal information and avoid fraud with these helpful tips.
While many of us use the internet to quickly and easily access information and to make our daily lives a little easier, some people use the internet to take advantage of others. While we shouldn’t give up internet use out of fear, it is important to take precautions so that we don’t fall victim to those who misuse the internet.
Below, I’ve outlined several tips for shopping online so that you can enjoy the greatest benefits of online shopping while safeguarding yourself from hackers and con artists.
How to Shop Online Safely
Shopping online is extremely convenient, but it also puts your privacy and information at risk. To safeguard yourself, follow these safety tips for shopping online.
Stick with Sites You Know
When possible, purchase from online stores you already use or that are well-established. If you’ve never heard of the store or site before, think twice before making your purchase.
Before entering any of your personal information, make sure the URL isn’t misspelled and doesn’t have extra characters. Also, beware of unusual extensions (e.g. “xyz.info” instead of “xyz.com”).
Shop Secure Sites
Sites that handle personal and payment information should have a security certificate. It’s very easy to tell if a site is secure or not.
You’re going to look for two things, which you can see in the URL at the top of this window. Look for a closed padlock to the left of the URL and also look for the “s” in “https”.
Secure sites will have BOTH features.
Use a Phishing Filter
Most internet browsers have phishing filters available. Search for “how to set up phishing filter for [insert browser name]” to find step-by-step instructions to make sure yours is enabled.
The filter will alert you if you visit a site that has been reported for phishing or malware and it will often block dangerous sites.
Use Established Apps
If you do your online shopping on a mobile device or tablet, be just as cautious with apps as you are with sites. When possible, download apps directly from the website of the store or brand you trust.
If there’s no direct download or app link on the retailer’s site, look for indicators like a long history and plenty of reviews.
Research Unfamiliar Sites
If you find an item you really want but it’s only available on a site you’ve never heard of before, you can still make the purchase safely if you do some due diligence first.
Do a brief internet search to see what others say about the site. I always search “[site name] scam” to ensure the site hasn’t been tied to any scams. Also look for a social media presence and read what customers have to say about the store or brand.
In addition to the phishing and malware filters mentioned earlier, you really should AT A MINIMUM ensure your firewall and internet security settings are set to appropriate levels on your computer. Ideally, you also have some sort of internet security software installed on your computer.
This probably goes without saying, but just in case, I’ll mention it anyway. You never want to do your online shopping on a public computer. There’s just no way to control for what software or devices are attached to a public computer that might be capturing your information.
If a public computer is your ONLY option for some reason, make sure you log out the previous user completely before you log in. Then, make sure you log yourself out completely after you’ve used the computer.
Also, before logging off, clear the cache and cookies on the browser to erase any breadcrumbs you might have left behind as to which sites and pages you visited.
Use Private Connection
Try to avoid shopping online when you are connected to public WiFi. If you don’t have private internet access at home, consider subscribing to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service.
I actually use a VPN at home to shield our privacy, location and personal information even when we’re on our private network. It’s only a few dollars a month so it’s very affordable.
Use a Card with Fraud Protection
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from fraud when shopping online is to use a credit card that offers fraud protection.
Even with fraud protection, it’s important to monitor the transactions on your accounts. Make sure you review each of your bank and credit card statements for unfamiliar transactions.
Guard Your Information
To complete a purchase transaction, the ONLY information a website should need are your name, address, and credit card information. Sometimes your phone number might be required for shipping purposes. If a site is asking for additional information, be wary.
Also, don’t use critical personal information to create passwords for a site you don’t know or trust completely. For example, don’t use your social security number, birthday, or mother’s maiden name — anything that a secure site might use as identity confirmation.
Use Strong Passwords
For ANY site, it’s important to establish strong passwords that are difficult to guess. That doesn’t mean the passwords have to be difficult for you to remember.
A common strategy is to think of a sentence or phrase that is meaningful to you and put it in password form. For example, “I broke my arm when I was 8 years old by falling off my bike” could be: “IbmywI=8yobfomb”.
Ideally, you would choose different passwords for each site. There are several secure password managers you can to help you store and keep track of your passwords.
For additional tips for shopping online, READ MORE ABOUT ONLINE AND MOBILE SECURITY.
How to Score Online Deals & Discounts
Once you know how to safely navigate the online marketplace, you can take advantage of one of the best online shopping benefits — scoring great bargains! Follow these tips for shopping online if you want to land amazing deals.
Sign up for Retailer and Brand Alerts
If you have stores or brands that you absolutely love, sign up for their email and/or text alerts. You’ll get sale announcements and coupon codes sent directly to you.
If you use a Gmail account, these emails will go to your promotions tab so they won’t clog up your daily inbox but can find the information when you want it. Many other email systems give you similar options to set up special folders and filtering rules to accomplish the same thing.
Time Your Purchases
One of the best ways to score online deals is to simply shop at the right time. Get familiar with the best time of year to buy certain items.
Also, if there are any holidays coming up, wait for holiday sales. And generally, whenever a new model or version of a product is released, the previous models are steeply discounted.
Use the Right Credit Card
Another way to score great deals is to simply choose the right credit card. Look for one that offers deals and rewards that help your dollars stretch farther.
For example, with the Navy Federal cash Rewards Cash Back Credit Card, you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Even better, you can redeem rewards right away in the form of cash, merchandise, or gift cards. See all the ways you could earn and save with Navy Federal Credit Union.
Take Advantage of Membership Perks
Check with your bank or credit union and any other organizations where you’re a member for special offers available to members.
For example, Navy Federal Credit Union has a Member Rewards Mall where members get exclusive deals and free shipping from trusted stores and brands. Become a Member if you’d like to take advantage of this benefit.
Always Check for Coupon or Promo Codes
Before checking out, always make sure to search your email, texts, and the internet for discount codes. It only takes a few minutes and can save you up to 50% in some cases!
Read Return and Refund Policies
This may not help you score a great deal, but it will protect you from throwing one away. That extra $5 you save by buying from Site A disappears when you have to pay $10 to ship the product back because it was the wrong size, shape, color, etc.
Don’t Forget Shipping Costs
Since shipping costs can dramatically impact the cost of ordering an item online, always pay close attention to how shipping charges are calculated. If free shipping isn’t available, look for flat shipping costs if you are ordering multiple items.
Also, check to see if the site has a ship to store option, which is usually free. The package won’t be delivered directly to your home, but it could save you a lot of money if you’re willing to pick it up at the nearest store.
The internet is a wonderful resource for finding great deals and knocking out a lot of your shopping without leaving home. If you follow the tips for shopping online above, you can enjoy these benefits with less worry.