Shopping online safely and securely

Online shopping can mean convenience, easy comparisons and simple bargain hunting. It’s rarely about credit card fraud or dangerous products, when you are shopping online safely and securely.

Buying goods and services online is becoming increasingly common. To make you’re online shopping safe and secure keep reading. You do need to be aware of tax, legal and safety implications if buying from outside the EU. How often have you seen a cheap dress on Ebay, only to realise after you have ordered that the dress is shipped from China. Sometimes, buying outside the EU may have the advantages of convenience and price. Compact discs, for example, are often a lot cheaper in the USA.

Another advantage is the access you have to all sorts of things that aren’t available on the high street. If you are a fan of obscure folk music, for instance, you can find a specialist site. The internet can help you buy out-of-print books, and there are sites that sell unusual coffee and rare malt whisky

About Online Shopping

The online world is a vast ‘jungle’ of virtual malls, shopping sites, and stores. The personal computer connected online via broadband has replaced the car, electronic accounts, credit cards and online currencies like bitcoin have replaced the leather wallet or purse, and paper circulars and catalogues are fast becoming obsolete in the face of websites.

But while there are no shopping trolleys to chip your car’s paint, this world can still be a jungle. Just as with Grafton St, or Liffey Valley, one must learn the skills of shopping. The Internet is a superb way to find the shop you need, but once at that shop it’s up to you what you do. Online shopping can be fun, safe and secure if done properly.

Why should I shop online?

There are many advantages associated with online shopping. Firstly, let’s discuss the disadvantages of shopping in your local shopping centre. You must get in your car, an expensive item to run with direct costs per mile. Then you must spend anywhere between five minutes and two hours driving to the shopping centre, fighting other cars, feeling frustration build at traffic lights, often in extreme heat or cold. Once you are at the centre, and have spent fifteen minutes looking for a car parking space, you have to hassle with the crowds of people inside, maybe trying to look after a small child simultaneously. Plus you have to orchestrate all this to make sure you are at the centre within the correct opening hours!

On the other hand, turning on your computer and going onto the internet is relatively simple -and cheaper. It’s quick, and simple. Once online these factors still hold true, with salespersons and pushy shopkeepers bypassed. Plus the actual process of shopping – selecting goods – is greatly quickened, thanks to computer generated search forms and organised catalogues.

So you can see that shopping online, for the most part, is somewhat more economical than conventional shopping. But the other major benefit to the World Wide Web as a window to stores is the fact that it is worldwide. The shopping network online is totally global, giving you not only a huge selection but a tremendous amount of variety.

What do these online stores look like?

Store user interfaces on the net consist of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) pages. You navigate the sites using links to other pages or departments in the store. Generally online stores will have an electronic catalogue of sorts, containing pictures, specifications, and other details about the products the company sells. Often, the site will have a ‘shopping cart’ – next to each product will be a button labeled ‘Add to cart,’ which, when clicked, lists the product in the virtual trolley which you take to the equally virtual checkout when ready.

Another feature of most online stores is the search engine they have. These reduce the time taken to find a particular item – how many hours have you spent flicking through CD racks trying to find that one particular album? Just type in the title, or group, or CD number, or any other keywords into a music shop search engine and you’ll be taken to it without delay.

And what type of stores will I find online?

Things online tend to parallel the real world of concrete buildings and car parks. You will find separate sites for specialty stores, selling only one type of product, which do each order themselves and provide their own customer service. You will find departments stores, selling different types of products but, like a traditional one, having a one-stop checkout to purchase at.

You will also find virtual shopping centres, setup on a server as one site and selling Internet real estate to members of the above categories and advertising itself as a shopping destination for consumers. These sites often have directories to browse through listing the stores on the site.

What can I buy online?

Merchandise available to be purchased online includes basically everything available elsewhere – and sometimes items not available elsewhere. Foods and drinks, clothing, jewellery, pharmaceuticals, computer products, toys for the kids, pets, furniture, real estate, cars, bikes, boats, antiques, music, electronics, sports equipment, are some of the items you can purchase.

But how do I pay for these products? Isn’t it dangerous giving my credit card number out?

Obviously you cannot hand over cash and see your purchase registered with a till when shopping online. In today’s world money is fast becoming a sequence of bits and bytes of electronic data – and payment of goods and services online is a natural extension of that process.

Most sophisticated online stores allow you to complete transactions on your computer screen, there and then. In the past this was a risky business since your credit card number was required and hackers could steal it. However, new technologies are making this risk almost non-existent, so there is no more danger present than giving a waitress your card in a restaurant. Also, the merchant or bank usually takes any financial loss.

Alternative Payment Methods

There are now alternatives to using your main credit card or debit card online. One of the most popular alternatives is Pay As You Go Debit and Credit Cards. These Prepaid Debit and Credit cards are available in Ireland. They can be used in the majority of online shops and high street stores. They are also used the same way normal Credit Cards and Debit Cards are used.

Prepaid cards can be a way of avoiding many of the transaction fees charged by most Irish banks. As you are only spending what is on the card you will not end up in debt. Also as your transactions don’t appear on bank statements or credit card statements you are getting more privacy where needed. It is also worth noting that you have the same protection when buying with a prepaid debit card as with a credit card. If goods don’t turn up you can get Visa or Mastercard to do a chargeback to the retailer’s bank and get a refund.

Some sites also give you the option of  paying via Pay Pal, which is a very secure way of paying with your Credit/Debit Card.

Online Shopping Safety Checklist

Look For:

A secure site that protects you by encrypting your credit card information during your checkout. This is done when a site’s URL address begins with https://,  when you are asked to enter your credit card number or other personal information. Also, you will see a closed lock in the browser bar to indicate secure pages.

Extensive contact information that includes a phone number, fax number, e-mail address and standard mailing address, is especially important when it comes to companies you have not heard of or shopped at in the past.

A stated privacy policy that emphasizes the protection of your personal information from other individuals or companies. A specific policy for returns and refunds. This area of the site should include a satisfaction guarantee.

Clearly stated shipping charges for purchases to eliminate unwelcome surprises. Be aware of the requirements for guarantees such as free shipping or next-day delivery.

A customer registration or sign-up page that doesn’t require you to provide information about your bank account.

An expected delivery date that is stated when you make a purchase. When ordering online, you have the right to know if there are any delays and to decide whether you wish to accept the delay or cancel the order. Most reputable stores will tell you up front if the item is out of stock.

A purchase order or confirmation number for your transaction so you can refer to it in the event of any problems. This information should be printed out every time you place an order, just in case you don’t receive a confirmation email.

So you see it is perfectly safe to conduct transactions online, and that the advantages certainly outweigh any risks or disadvantages. Open up the internet and enjoy the excellent prices, fantastic selection, overnight delivery, and prompt customer service available in today’s online shopping world, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

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