Safe Shopping and Banking Online

Shopping online is one of the best things about the Internet. You can find bargains, collectibles on Craigslist or eBay. You can download the latest CDs and locate that hard to find size. You can compare prices and conduct an online garage sale. It’s open 24/7 and makes our lives easy. No traffic (at least not the vehicle kind) and no rain, snow or problems parking.


The problems come from scams, cybercriminals, and forgetting the one thing all shoppers have to remember – “Buyer Beware!” If it appears too good to be true, it’s for a good reason – it’s NOT true!


Start with trusted offline brand sites. The ones that have brick and mortar stores are sometimes easier to deal with when you need to return something or want a number to call for customer service. Then branch out to sites you can trust online, like Amazon. The further you stray from well-known brands, the more careful you have to be. See if anyone has certified their security practices, like VeriSign or McAfee Secure. Check and see if they have a privacy seal or the Socially Safe Best Practices Seal from WiredTrust (also founded by cyberlawyer Parry Aftab). Click on the seal to confirm that it is up to date.


Read the privacy policy (no matter how boring it is) and their terms of service. See if they offer returns and if so, who pays to ship them back. Search for the item in Google to see who else is selling it and for how much (always including the shipping price and sales tax when comparing prices).


When you are convinced it’s what you want, at the right price and from someone you trust, the hard part begins. How are you going to pay for it? Keeping your bank details secure is crucial.


PayPal (owned by eBay) is now being used as a trusted payment method at many sites, not just eBay. It allows you to pay directly from your bank account, without the buyer having your banking information and gives you the option to use a credit card to fund the purchases as well. Note that if you pay from your bank account, certain consumer protection options that apply to credit cards may not be available to you if things go wrong. So, always select the credit card option when using PayPal.


All US credit cards are required to correct any billing related to fraud. They also have an obligation if you notify them in the manner set out on the back of your bill (and by certified mail!) to credit any charge related to a certain kind of dispute. And if you have a valid dispute that isn’t resolved by the seller, that credit becomes permanent. Even if PayPal and other payment mechanisms offer you buyer protection, it may not be as good as what you get under existing credit card dispute laws. So, if in doubt, opt for a credit card payment.


But, even though using credit cards is safer when buying online, if you don’t check your credit card statement you may miss fraudulent charges and early signs of ID theft. So, check them and let your credit card company know if you suspect unauthorized charges or fraud as early as possible. Some scammers only bill your card for small charges, under $10. We often overlook smaller charges and $10 times 500,000 unsuspecting victims can make you rich!


WiredSafety recommends using one card for all online purchases. It’s easier to track spending and protect your financial identity at the same time.


Talk to your bank about security tips. Select a special password that is especially hard to guess for any financial sites and transactions. Don’t save it on your computer. And don’t share it with anyone, especially your children who may be tempted to buy that big screen plasma TV they wanted or share it with someone offering to split a $50 million dollar inheritance from Nigeria’s president with them if they put up the first $5000. And check your bank statement every month as soon as it arrives. Some banks allow you to set an alert to let you know if there are online transactions or purchases being made using your account. Ask your bank.


We work too hard for our money to lose it to scammers, criminals and creeps.


For special tips on Craiglist or Kijiji buying and selling, click here.