The snow is falling here in Northeast Ohio. It means that we are less likely to want to leave our homes and that holiday shopping is around the corner. More and more shopping is happening online, and not only because it means we don’t have to brave the snow. Many new brands start with online-only options, and stores are stocking fewer products and sizes, so you might have to order the correct item online even if there is a physical store in your area.
Before Black Friday and Cyber Monday have you pulling out your wallet, let’s cover some things that you should know before shopping online.
The Safety Basics
1. Only shop on websites you trust and/or know about.
While looking for a good deal, make sure that you stay on a website that is reputable. If it’s a new company or brand, try googling it to see reviews. Ending up on a site you have never heard of just because the item is there isn’t always the best choice. The quality can often be inferior, and those sites are often less secure.
2. Make sure the checkout is secure.
Check the URL at the top of the screen to see that there is a little lock or httpS at the start. The S stands for secure.
If you are using Google Chrome as your browser, there will be a little lock logo up at the top left-hand corner of the URL box. If you see “Not Secure” then you should not be shopping there.
3. No (shopping) website needs your SSN.
They just don’t. If it’s asking for it, you are in the wrong place.
4. Check your statements before and after your purchase for a few weeks to know when the money actually came out.
Firstly, checking your statement weekly is just good financial hygiene. Secondly, doing this can help you catch things faster.
5. Try not to shop on public WIFI or public computers.
Public WIFI at the coffee shop or mall is unsecured. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment for someone to get on the network and see what everyone using it is doing. Do your shopping on secure networks or at home. If you HAVE to do your shopping on a public computer, like at the library, make sure you sign out of everything.
6. Make strong passwords for your shopping accounts.
Having different passwords for each shopping account means that they are separate and secure. A leak by one company will not affect your other accounts. If you don’t know how to do that or having lots of passwords is hard then get a password manager to do it for you. Click here to read our full article on password managers.
Tricks no one told you!
1. Clear the cookies on your browser before you buy an airline ticket.
Clear the cookies and history on your browser after you find a flight time you like. If the price is still higher than the first time you looked try using a different web browser. If Chrome is your normal browser open up Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Opera. Or vice versa depending on what you use.
Or, try using a completely different computer! I have personally saved $100 on a flight by using a different computer in the house than my laptop.
2. Make an email address just for shopping!
Stores love to send you emails every day and it can be daunting. So much information in your inbox is often stressful. Instead, create a separate email account that you can use to sign up for store emails. This way you have access to the coupons and sales without having to wade through all of it to get your personal email.
3. Consider using a reliable coupon service.
Just searching for coupons or coupon codes can take you to some pretty shady parts of the web. Instead, consider using a more reliable business. The tech trainers have personally tried Rakuten and Honey. Rakuten (formerly Ebates) uses the concept of referral links to help get customers cashback and can check for coupon codes at check out. Honey checks for coupon codes and can be used to track the price of an item so you don’t have to stalk a product you want.
4. Don’t go to Amazon for everything.
While many customers love to use Amazon to make all of their purchases it can have a few major drawbacks. Not every seller on Amazon is selling authentic items. There are tons of knock offs or imitation items on the site. If you are buying something important check the seller information to see if it is the main company, or better yet buy the item from the original company when you can.
5. Read Reviews and watch review videos on YouTube.
If a product you want to buy online is not available in a store near you it can be very hard to make a decision based solely on the photos and description. The tech trainers are very fond of Wirecutter for all kinds of product reviews. After you find a product you think you like, try typing the name into google and seeing what other reviews might be out there.