Buying Safely Online-What you should know

At one time only the very ‘net-savvy’ purchased online, but according to government sources almost 80% of internet users in Canada shop online, and around 60% actually purchase online. It is becoming an increasingly popular pastime, especially in Canada where many remote communities do not have access to the range of stores our consumer lifestyles demand. Many people enjoy the convenience of comparing prices without the hassle of going from store to store, while others may just want to browse and take their time without the pressure from sales assistants. And of course, there are great deals to be had from online stores who have reduced outgoings and overheads compared to their retail competitors.

Though shopping online offers so many benefits, some people are still wary. Security is a growing and ongoing concern-rightly so. But armed with a few good tips your shopping trip to the World Wide Web Mall can be as safe as shopping in your Local Mall. So take note and enjoy your online shopping experience…

We love this article found on There are some good tips here, as well as a few of our own added in red!

1)Find a Reputable Retailer for Online Shopping Safety

When you’re shopping online, make sure that the site that you’re intending to use trades in an honest and transparent manner.

A good online retailer:

  • Charges a fair price for products and services.
  • Has a clear delivery policy.
  • Provides information on packaging.
  • Confirms your order promptly and in writing.
  • Delivers within the timescales outlined in its delivery policy.
  • Respects your privacy and has a good privacy policy.
  • Has a secure website and protects all customer data.
  • Provides an appropriate returns policy.

When looking for a reputable retailer, check its website and look for personal recommendations. If the business has a reputation for the following practices, it should be avoided:

  • Providing bad customer service.
  • Failing to deliver the correct product or failing to deliver goods on time.
  • Not having a clear set of Terms and Conditions.
  • Abusing customer privacy.
  • Misrepresenting itself, its products or its services.

2)Use Secure Websites to Buy Safely Online

If you’re going to make a financial transaction online or submit your personal details to an online retailer, it’s vitally important that you do so through a secure website. This means that you’ll be able to transfer sensitive data without outsiders being able to eavesdrop and misuse your details.

Most businesses will use the SSL protocol to prove their identities and you can check this by looking for the prefix ‘https’ in the front of the web address (this stands for ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure’). A padlock should be visible on the status bar, signifying that the owners have been issued with a digital certificate by a trusted third party, such as Verisign, who has checked the company for authenticity.

The certificate generates a one-off encryption code that ensures that all communication between you and the certificate owner is secure from eavesdroppers for as long as the padlock is present. If you double-click on the padlock, the certificate will be displayed, and the browser will warn you if it is not recognised. Recognised certificate authorities include Verisign, Thawte, Equifax and GeoTrust.

However, be aware that a digital certificate doesn’t give any guarantee about the company’s business ethics, policies or IT security.

Some sites also do not process any financial information on their site, and therefore do not display a ‘padlock’ symbol (such as ourselves). You will be transferred to a secure site to complete your transaction-examples of this are PayPal, InternetSecure, and Admeris in Canada. You will see the padlock displayed when you transfer to these sites-make sure there is one! If you are in any doubt about the security of the site, do not hesitate to contact the site owner to discuss this with them.

3)How to Ensure You Are Shopping Online Safely

If you are going to buy goods from an online shop, bear the following points in mind before making a purchase:

  • Is the online store’s website secure? Look for the padlock and examine the certificate for details about the protection that the website has in place. Also look for a reliable and well known payment gateway such as PayPal if there is no padlock/certificate (as explained above!)
  • Shop around. Compare prices between different online retailers to find the best deals and prices. Make sure prices don’t seem ‘too good to be true’ either though!
  • Look for a trading address. There should be evidence of a physical business address (not just a PO Box number) on the website. Very important! Look for a phone number too.
  • Beware of expensive ‘extras’. Watch out for high postage costs and hidden charges such as tax and duties on foreign imports.
  • Pay by credit card. Credit card purchases give you more protection if the deal goes wrong. A super tip-take out a separate credit card for purchasing online with a low credit limit. On the slim chance your card is compromised, the damage will be limited.
  • Read the small print. Take note of the website’s Terms and Conditions.
  • Be wary of imports. Buying from overseas can be tricky; delivery times may be relatively long and import duties are often expensive. Contact the site owner to confirm in writing the service they are offering you.
  • Returns. Check the site’s returns policy to see where you stand and who pays for return postage. You are usually entitled to a cancellation period of seven working days if you are not satisfied with the product
  • Get personal recommendations. If you haven’t bought anything from the company before, it’s best to find out what other people think of the site and its trading practices.
  • Save documentation. Print out your order invoice and the site’s Terms and Conditions for reference

There are some great points here and I hope you have found some of them useful:) I promise we’ll be back to something ‘artsy fartsy’ in our next blog!!!!!

(Originally published December 14, 2009)

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