Real Estate

Shopping online this Christmas: strategies for a very happy experience

The holiday season will soon be upon us, along with the usual shopping spree, both online and offline. Shopping online is quick and easy and can save you a lot of time and frustration. So is it safe? It is estimated that 40% of the population in Western countries have bought something online. Maybe you are one of them; if not, should you be?

These days, buying something online is almost always an easy and pleasant experience, if you keep a few things in mind. The most obvious thing you’ve no doubt heard many times is this: never enter sensitive information unless you’re on a secure page. A secure web page is one that begins with [https://..]. and you see a little gold padlock at the top or bottom of your screen, though this isn’t entirely foolproof.

If you don’t see these two indicators, never accept an offer to supposedly fix the problem. You will probably be the victim of a malicious attack.

Please review the company’s Privacy Policy below to ensure your data will never be sold, traded, or disclosed. When logging in to a shopping site, do not select the “Remember me” option, or “Keep me logged in unless I log out”, or “Remember my password”, etc. Be especially careful not to allow the site to store your credit card number.

You’ve probably noticed that some sites you visit often are personalized for you, with your name or items of interest to you. You may know that this is done with cookies. To block cookies from a particular site in Internet Explorer, click Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab, Sites. Enter the website address to block and click Block. Click OK, OK. In Firefox, click Tools, Options, Privacy, Exceptions. Enter the web address and click Block. Click Close, OK.

You can also log into your account on the shopping site and find something like Account Preferences, Profile, View Orders, etc. Look for something like Browsing History, then look for an option to turn it off. Of course, if you think an account is collecting too much information about you, just delete it. Block your cookie as above, then open a new account.

Use a credit card for your purchases, not a debit card or electronic check. Visa, Mastercard and American Express offer various protections to users in case of difficulties, so credit cards are somewhat safer. Debit cards and checks give you access to your bank account. Credit cards don’t.

Be careful with desktop search programs. Many of them cache or store those secure web pages we talked about earlier. The pages can include what you’ve ordered, as well as, you guessed it, your credit card number. To avoid this, look for a Preferences setting for secure pages, https, or web history. Turn it off.

These few precautions will help ensure you have a wonderful holiday shopping season. Stay alert on the web, use common sense, keep your security programs up to date and you’ll be fine. So let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas!

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