You've heard of dozens of scams online, all the dangers of passing your credit card over the phone lines to a stranger at the other end who could steal your children and eat all your cereal. Okay, that was a little flippant. But then, the dangers of buying things online have been overhyped, while the many benefits of buying online have been underadvertised.
Provided you educate yourself on avoiding scams, buying online is better than buying at stores for a number of reasons:
* Online products are cheaper because of the much lower overhead
* Online stores tend to have a much, much larger selection of goods. Look at Amazon's selection compared to the selection at the best bookstore in your town. There's simply no comparison.
* Online shopping is MORE secure, not less secure, than paying for your restaurant meal with a credit card.
You can probably see and agree with the first two points. But think about the last one. Today's online credit card transactions are made with 32-bit encryption. This is nearly the strongest possible encryption, so strong that it's illegal for private American software companies to sell the technology to foreigners, so strong that even military cryptological technology can not crack it.
Compare that to your local restaurant. The server takes your credit card – your physical credit card – and disappears into another room with it. There, anything could happen, including the server copying your full name, credit card number, security code (on the back of the card, this is used to verify you have a card and not just a number), and expiration date. Yet how many times have you trusted a server to take your card to pay for dinner?
Still, there are a number of scams that you need to have wary of online. If you decide to try buying online, take steps to avoid the following problems.
* Always know who you are dealing with. If you're on a large site like Amazon, this is not a problem. For others, it may be. At auction sites, read the seller's ratings. Run a check on places like ripoffreport.com to look for complaints. Go to whois.com and look up the website to see if the owner and address are listed publicly. Do whatever you can to ensure you are purchasing from a reputable businessman. If there's any doubt, do not buy anything.
* Do not buy anything from an unsolicited email. Ever. While a few are legit, the vast majority are not just scams, but scams that will happily sell your credit card information to the highest bidder.
* Always get a timeline for delivery, always get a physical address for the seller, and always use a credit card to purchase items. These things will protect you in case the seller is a scammer.
* If you're using a credit card online, look at the address bar and make sure that the site starts https :, not http: – The "s" signifies a secure online site.
* Look for a phone number any time you give a seller money before you get your goods. Scammers do not list phone numbers; legitimate buyers do.
Today, online buying and selling is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It's made fortunes for people, and has provided consumers everywhere with quality merchandise at prices that can not be beat. And – it's safer than you ever imagined, provided you exercise reasonable caution.