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10 Tips for Safe (Online) Holiday Shopping

10 Tips for Safe (Online) Holiday Shopping

Can they really still call it Black Friday ( the day when retail outlets traditionally do enough sales to take them out of the red for the year) if its starting  at 10 pm on Thanksgiving? Retailers are starting sooner and sooner and many of their “Black Friday specials” are also online.   So before you head out into cyberspace on Black Friday, or any time during this holiday season here are some handy tips to read and remember:

1. Shop with businesses you know and can be trusted to stay in business. You also know they have the right to sell branded merchandise and will stand behind their sales.

2. Read and understand the Privacy Policy to know how the site will treat your personal information. If they don’t have a privacy policy and don’t include contact information beyond just a web address – they should not be trusted.

3. Look for the padlock device on the browser bar. Note that the URL should change to “shttp or https” when asking for payment information. Both of these are key indicators that the purchase is encrypted and secure.

4. Be sure you know and agree to all shipping charges, taxes and delivery dates and make note of any conditions that could cause a delay, extra charges, or separate shippings, etc. Be sure you know the return policy and can live with it if items are “non-refundable”.

5.  Gift certificates are great but be sure you know the policy on any gift card or certificate you purchase online. Expiration dates, lost certificates and other conditions could cause these to be a waste of money. Be particularly careful of the new “e-coupons” that cost less than the actual value of the certificate. There could be conditions that your recipient might not be able to meet.

6. Never include your social security number or driver’s license number – these should never be necessary.

7. Be sure you read the descriptions carefully checking for size, weight, color, materials, etc. Pretty catalogue pictures can be deceiving. Watch for tricky phrases like “as seen on TV”, “the same great deal for half the price”, etc.

8. If possible have packages delivered where someone can receive them (work, a neighbor who is normally home, etc). Packages left on the doorstep at this time of year are easy to steal, won’t be missed for a day or two and an indication that you’re not home.

9. Print a copy of the order, the shipping & payment information, etc. – keep a paper trail of the transaction, acknowledgement of the order etc.

10. Check your credit card statements, online banking, etc to be sure that you’ve been charged what you agreed to, there are no double charges and as a way to keep track of holiday spending.

USA TODAY’s Tech Holiday Shopping Guide  (the top 5 Tech Gadgets for 2010 and some tips)

And most importantly of all – HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!