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eShopping Tips

Online stores can provide convenience and savings not found in traditional brick and mortar stores. They also require you to exercise additional caution as you shop. If you don’t know an online retailer by its brand or reputation, these tips can help you determine whether they’re operating a secure and trustworthy Web site before you enter your credit card number or personal information.

Before you choose an online store . . .

  • Do a thorough background check.  Look for a physical address (not a Post Office box), request a catalog by mail, or call and speak with a company representative by telephone.
  • Explore their Web site and watch for trusted third-party seals of approval such as:
BBB Accredited Business or TRUSTe
 Better Business Bureau Online TRUSTe

Companies can put these seals on their sites only if they abide by a set of rigorous standards—such as how complaints and disputes will be resolved and how personal information can be used.  If you don’t find any of these or similar seals on the site, look in the privacy policy or “Terms & Conditions” which should always be clearly posted on the site, generally right on the home page.

  If you do see the seals above, click on them to make sure they link to the organization that created them. Some unscrupulous merchants will put these logos on their sites without permission, and they’re less likely to get caught if they don’t link back to the site.

Find out what other shoppers have to say about an online store on comparison sites such as epinions or Bizrate.  These sites have customer evaluations built into their design with a number of smiley faces or stars.

Review their shipping methods and policies to determine what carriers they use, their shipping rates, and if they provide tracking and insurance. Also find out where they ship from—goods are sometimes sent from international locations, which require customs clearance and extra time.

Before you submit your credit card number . . .

So, you’ve done your homework.  You have found the perfect item at the perfect price and you’re ready to make the purchase.  Before you enter your credit card number, make sure that the store you’ve chosen abides by the following rules:

  • The company should request only personal information that’s absolutely necessary to complete the transaction.  You will probably enter your credit card number, shipping address, and telephone number.  Be wary if they ask for other information such as your Social Security number, Bank Account number, or your mother’s maiden name (something that is often used by banks as a password for telephone access to personal banking information.)

Note:   Reputable companies may ask for your interests by having you check certain boxes.  This information should not be required to complete the purchase.

  • The Web site must use secure network technology to ensure the privacy of your information.   When you get to the screen where you enter your credit card number or any other personal information, make sure the Web address begins with https: (for example, https://www.4sale.com/).  When you are on a secure https page, a tiny locked padlock appears near the bottom right of the screen, as illustrated below.
    Example of Website using https in address and a secure site “lock icon”

Use Online Payment Brokers like PayPal

PayPal for Buyers

  • Choose to pay using your credit card, debit card, or bank account
  • Make secure purchases without revealing your credit card number or financial information
  • Shop using PayPal on eBay and with thousands of merchants worldwide

PayPal for Sellers

  • Accept credit cards, debit cards, and bank account payments for low transaction fees
  • Add PayPal to your website in minutes, no downtime required
  • Get access to a growing user base with millions of active online shoppers

What are the Benefits of Using PayPal?

It’s Fast – Payments are made immediately, quicker than sending checks or money orders.

 It’s Private – PayPal does not reveal your financial information to sellers.

 It’s Global – PayPal is accepted worldwide, and can be used to make payments locally or internationally.

It’s Easy – Send money to anyone in just a few clicks.

 Iaast’s Trusted – Industry-leading fraud prevention keeps you safe and secure.

 It’s Cost-Effective – It’s free to send money, and PayPal is affordable for businesses of all sizes.

PayPal Helps to Protect Your Account — and Your Purchases

PayPal’s industry-leading fraud prevention measures and our one-of-a-kind method of keeping your financial information private from sellers make us a safe way to pay online. Plus, we offer the following to protect your purchases:

Trust your instincts

If a site matches all the criteria presented above, then there’s a good chance that the site is both legitimate and reliable.  But as with most things online or off, if you get a bad feeling about a store, online or local, then skip it and find somewhere else to shop.

Protect yourself


Are you auction savvy?
10 tips from Microsoft for savy eBuyers

Do you frequently shop at online malls and auctions like eBay?  Take this quiz and find out if you can tell the good e-stores from the bad and the ugly.

Keep your PC Clean and Secure!

It is also important to keep your computer system free from Viruses, Spyware, and Security Vulnerabilities in order to keep your personal information safe and prevent credit card fraud and identity theft.  No matter how cautious you are in making your on-line purchases, your personal information can be compromised in an instant if your computer is infected with dangerous and malicious software.  More information on keeping your PC Secure.

More information available at Microsoft At-Home Security.