Holiday shopping does not have to mean fighting the crowds any more.
In fact, for a growing number of shoppers (including me), online shopping is the preferred way of “going to the mall.”
One of the great things about online shopping is that seniors (and those who care for or about them) who can’t or don’t want to go out to the stores no longer have to settle for paying higher prices or finding a poor selection. In fact, some of the lowest prices are available from online stores — and you can choose from thousands of stores, not just the hundred or so in and around the mall. Like many other things, though, there are cautions to keep in mind to make sure online shopping is a positive part of your holiday season.
A sad truth about the internet is that the technology that lets us shop from anywhere makes it possible for crooks to do their work from around the globe as well.
However, just as the crooks prowling the mall parking lots did not keep us from getting our shopping done in the past, their online counterparts should not keep us from those internet deals.
Six Tips to Keep Scamsters From Taking the Happy Out of the Holidays
- Stick with stores you know or that are recommended by someone whose opinion you trust. The busy holiday season is a risky time to take a chance on new retailer with a teaser ad or fantastic price. Sticking with stores you know is the best way to assure your purchases don’t arrive after Christmas, if at all. Even worse, that store with a great price could be a sham, set up to steal the identity of unfortunate shoppers.
- Avoid shopping from a public computer or wireless hotspot. Sadly, there are people who put snooping software on public access computers, despite the best efforts of schools, libraries and other convenient access places. They are just waiting for you to type in your credit card number or password so they can make it their own. Likewise, don’t use that free wireless connection at the coffee shop or fast food outlet, where it is too easy for the wrong people to see everything you type.
- Don’t click on email links to visit a store. Many of the emails you get for retailers are cleverly disguised “phishing” messages, luring you to their fake store website to get you to enter your information, even when the link looks like it is taking you to the real store. It takes just a little more time to go to your web browser and type in the store name but it may save you a lot of time and trouble later.
- Don’t buy gift cards from online auction sites. Many people have thought they got great online deals on those gift cards they bought for friends and loved ones only to find out what they bought was an empty card or, worse, the recipient of their gift finds out it is empty. Avoid being victimized and embarrassed by getting your gift cards from reputable outlets and keeping your receipts, just in case.
- Move on when the deal looks too good to be true. This is one place to trust your instincts. Yes, the holidays are a good time to find great prices, sometimes surprisingly so, but that TOO good price might just be bait to reel you into the wrong website.
- Check the return policy first. Yes, returns are a part of the holidays, for better and worse. Before you buy that gift online, check the retailer’s return policy in case you have picked the wrong color or size – or just missed the mark with your selection. Many retailers allow online purchases to be returned to their bricks and mortar stores.
We’d love to hear and pass along your tips and stories.