Online Shopping Tips

Author:  Nola Young

It’s Christmas, and you are looking for the “perfect” gift for your loved one.  Your mother just bought a hot tub, for Dad, on the Internet, and you’re wondering what you might find for that special someone on your list.

Shopping on the Internet can be fun, but be cautious.  Here are some on-line holiday safety tips to help make your Christmas shopping experience a happy one:

Privacy:  Look for a privacy statement like “WE DO NOT SELL, TRADE OR RENT ANY OF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO OTHERS”.    If the site that you are visiting does not clearly state that they will keep your information private, you may want to steer clear of it.

Some sites even participate in a Seal Program such as TRUSTe.  Programs like this are set up by third parties to monitor sites that offer privacy.  This ensures that you have an independent third party to turn to if you feel your privacy has been violated.

Guarantee:  Look for a personal guarantee from the company that you are buying from, so that if you are not completely satisfied with the product you can exchange it or return it for a refund.


Price:  Ensure that the price you are quoted is calculated in Canadian dollars.  Imagine buying a gift for  $200 and finding out when you received your credit card statement that it was actually $290 because it had to be converted to US funds.  This really isn’t the post-holiday surprise you were looking for!

Also look for shipping and handling fees.  Lets say, for example, you purchased a book for $7.95 and your shipping and handling fees equaled the cost of the book.  In this case, you might consider going to your local book store instead.

Credit Cards:  Use your credit cards wisely.  Be careful about giving your credit card information on the Internet, just as you do when using traditional buying methods.  Watch for indications that you are giving your credit card information on a secure server.  Web sites that offer secure services will make it clear that the data you send on-line is encrypted (scrambled).

Common Sense:   When dealing with places of business you learn to sense your own comfort level.  This should also apply to Internet dealings.  Trust your instincts.  Web Sites that are hard to navigate, or understand, or generally have that “not maintained” look, should create a sense of discomfort and cause you to think twice before you buy.   That is not to say that home-made site cannot be secure, but using your common sense will pay off.

Don’t disclose information that you are not comfortable with.  If you are being asked questions, that you feel are irrelevant to the sale of the product you should alert yourself to the possibility that something else is going on.  If you are uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to call the company to discuss their privacy and security practices.

If you’re looking for that “special” gift, the Internet may be the place to look.  Successful e-commerce sites are typically those that offer unique products to the consumer.  Have fun! After all, it’s Christmas!  Just remember, play it safe this holiday season (and all through the year).

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