Shopping can be a sport to some, a pain to others. I have to admit, I’m not a shopper except at Christmas time, then I love to shop! When I do shop, for the most part, I will do a lot of it online. Sometimes it is easier to find what I am looking for online. For example, Luke, my horse, is a draft horse, so I can’t just walk into any tack shop & buy stuff for him. Sometimes, it is easier to purchase items from smaller companies than it is from a big box company. Because of this, you want to make sure you are being SAFE and SMART with your purchases.
Here are some tips:
1. Whenever possible, look for the little padlock icon in the URL (where it says http://www…..). That padlock tells you the company is using a secure website. It is more secure, your information is more protected.
Notice the padlock next to the word “PayPal”
2. If it’s not a secure site, use PayPal or Google Wallet. Both of them offer the consumer protection against fraud. Make sure you read their terms and conditions. Understand there are time limits to request your funds back. Scammers know the terms and conditions better than you do, so if they are dishonest, they will try to stretch it past that time or try to catch you up and get you to do something that goes against the company policy. You are responsible for knowing all the details. I wish I could say everyone is good and honest, but in reality, they aren’t.
3. Never Never Never wire someone money. If they don’t use the above, you don’t want what they are selling. I wish I could say this more than once or have you repeat it over and over. They will come up with great reasons why you should wire the money. DO NOT LISTEN! The same is true for using money orders. Keep the same mindset.
4. The old adage “If something is too good to be true….” Definitely applies here. Sometimes the cheapest isn’t the best. Make sure to look for hidden “maintenance” fees or outrageous shipping. One example of this happening is with online contact lens companies. They will advertise crazy inexpensive pricing for their contacts, when you go to check out, there will be ridiculous shipping charges or a “maintenance fee” tacked on. It might have another name, like “processing fee.” No matter what cute name they put on it, it adds to the price and it might not be cheaper. Too often, by the time you get to that point, you see the amount but you have already put in your information and you don’t want the hassle of starting over. They capitalize on the psychology of some behavior and still get the business.
4. Auctions are another great way to get something for a good, or even great, price. I use them often, but again, use only secure sites or PayPal, etc. Do your homework. Don’t get so caught up in the bidding that you end up spending more than you can find it elsewhere for. Take a minute, look up the item online, see what price you can get it for, then pick a price you’re willing to spend and don’t go over it. A lot of the better auction sites offer proxy bidding so you can put in the price you’re willing to spend and then walk away. Have the mindset you might lose, but you’ll be happy if you win. One of my favorite online auction is Samsclub.com. This is a fun one because you know the product, you know it’s backed by the company, and, for the most part, it is all brand new merchandise. It made it to the auction because the item is low in the club or the on hand numbers on-line are too low to keep it on their website, so they move it to the auction to clear it out. For the dog and horse owners, another great one is Horseloverz.com. One nice feature is you can wait up to four days to actually purchase your winning items, so if you’re bidding on quite a few items, you can pay for them all at once and have them shipped out with less shipping costs. It is a little messy to wade through all of the items, but once you get comfortable with it, you can learn to use the filters to find what you are looking for. It’s not as easy to find the dog stuff, but they have it from time to time, so keep checking back, items vary all the time. Another tried and true site you can find a variety of items is ebay.com. If you have any other favorites, please put them in the comments below to share with the readers.
5. When I do shop in person, I like to support small businesses so I always make sure to grab their business card the first time. Some of the them now use PayPal Here, square trade, or some other form of mobile credit card processing. Sometimes these are connected to a smart phone or tablet. It doesn’t mean they are not safe, but if you don’t recognize the company they are using, it is OK to ask them. Pay attention to your credit card statements.
6. If at a Brick & Mortar (Wal-Mart, Target, etc) always always run your card as credit, not debit (even if it is a debit card). By doing this, you are protecting yourself from someone seeing you key in your pin. The person standing beside you on their phone “texting” could be snapping pictures of your credit card and memorizing your pin. It also protects you more as a consumer.
7. Make sure you have complicated passwords for anything and anyplace you would be putting your personal info into. This includes social media. If you use a smart phone to shop, always lock it (you should anyway) and don’t use 1,2,3,4 as a password. Make it something only YOU know, not family & friends. Don’t use birthday! LOL It is important to use something unique.
8. Trust your gut! If something seems shady, don’t buy! No purchase is worth it.
9. Last, but not least, if you are truly concerned, get a second card / account that you use for online shopping / small business purchases. Be careful of the fees that are involved. I don’t do this because I follow the above steps. I probably purchase 60+% of non food / household items online. It saves me time & allows for me to find the best price.
Oh….bonus tip….if you find something online that you really like from a larger company, put it in the shopping cart but don’t purchase. A lot of times, within 24 hours you’ll get a “Did you forget something?” Email and they’ll offer free shipping with a code. I hardly ever pay for shipping or very little. Also check the site “RetailMeNot” for specials or just google the Business name with the word coupon after it and you may find some online. They don’t always work, but it’s worth a shot!
I hope these tips help! Happy shopping!