Personal Finance, Tech/Software

How to shop online: bargain hunting and staying safe from scams

Shop online

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We outline how to shop online while saving money and avoiding fraudsters, with tips for bargain hunting and staying safe from scams.

Online shopping has been something of a revelation in recent years and as far as our consumption of products via this channel is concerned, the sky really does seem to be the limit.

We’ve gone from a society that purchases only occasionally online, and even then only by a select few, to one that completes well over 50% of all our spending activity via our desktops and mobile devices. Most impressive is the fact that we’ve moved from one stage to the next in a relatively short period of time.

How to shop online safely and save money: overview

The ease with which we can shop online for anything from a washing machine to a new therapist, has its positives and negatives. Yes the world has gotten smaller but it’s also become a little scarier a place to shop in.

You can of course mitigate the risks so that you can avoid many of the negative aspects and a lot of this means acting in a common sense fashion. To help you steer the right side of the pros and not the cons, here’s some tips that should be of use. 

Hunt for Bargains and Stick to Your Budget

Here are some useful tips when it comes to shopping online and looking for bargains.

Stick to your Budget

Shopping online is clearly easier than marching through a succession of shops in the mall and this can be very dangerous. Before you know it, the items in your online cart are numerous. 

This is the flip side of making your purchases online, whatever you set out to get, you can be sure there are numerous other ones you definitely didn’t really need to stick in the cart.

Make sure you have a set amount you are willing to spend, and stick to it. Think of it as going into a physical shop with only the cash you have, and not a mountain of credit and debit cards, and then stop when you’ve got what you wanted or met your budget, whichever happens first.

Shop for things that are cheaper online

The emergence and now dominance of online shopping stores has clearly led to a downturn in pricing of many day to day items. It’s also led to a huge shift in some niches and industries that were, seemingly, far more pricier than they should have been. 

Take buying glasses for instance. Prior to the availability of an online glasses store the costs associated with buying glasses, both prescription based or not, were sky-high and that was in many ways down to the industry as a whole acting in something of a monopolistic fashion. 

Now shopping online for glasses is not only easier, it’s cheaper due to the wider range of providers offering a larger assortment of products. 

Do your research

If you think of the online shopping community as an infinite resource then you can take your time before making that key purchase. Perhaps you’ve seen the item you want and it’s advertised as the best price available. Why trust the advertising when you are just a few clicks away from checking for yourself.

Research the items AND the sites and shops you are visiting. Yes, if the store is related to a well-known physical location or is an entity like Amazon or Ebay, then you can be relatively sure of the validity of the offer being made.

If it’s not, then you should check out what previous customers say about the site and then use this as leverage when it comes to making your choice. For instance location x might be a little bit cheaper but perhaps has issues with deliveries or even quality of their goods, in which case paying a few cents more at location y becomes infinitely more preferable.

Staying Safe Online: Some Tips

Shopping online isn’t without it’s perils and we’re not just talking about paying a little over the odds for that special something you want. We are talking about fraudulent behaviour such as identity theft.

Make sure the site is reputable

In the same way as you were checking above to see if the store was a good one in relation to its delivery schedules, you should check reviews to see if there are too many negative experiences.

Those sites and online stores that have way too many negative reviews should be avoided, especially if these reviews relate to not being able to get refunds or failure of items to arrive entirely. 

If there are reviews that outline actual scams and illegal activity, clearly that should be where the alarm bells truly start to ring.

Make sure the site is secure

If the site you visit starts with the prefix http, and not https, then run for the hills, close the browser and never return. Make sure that the padlock symbol appears in the url bar for extra protection. 

When it comes to payment methods offered by the store you are visiting, make sure these look legit and preferable use a credit card that offers insurance against possible scams, just in case.

Don’t give away too much information

If the checkout on the site you are visiting asks for your social security number, or indeed your birthday, be wary. These types of information, coupled with your credit card information (which clearly will be needed to complete a transaction), are enough for your identity to be stolen for nefarious reasons.

We should hasten to add that a large majority of online retail outlets are entirely safe and that the number of fraudulent locations, and individuals, is far outweighed by those that are trustworthy. But that doesn’t mean you should let down your guard or be complacent.