It's hard to find anyone today who hasn't bought something online. With the exponential growth of online shopping over the last few years, there's no doubt that the Internet plays a huge role in the future of retail. During the 2013 Christmas season, online spending was up about ten percent from the previous year.
The Rise of Online Shopping
According to Internet analytics firm comScore, Americans spent $38.91 billion online between November 2 and Christmas. By shopping online, people can compare prices, and choose who they want to do business with instead of spending only at the stores near them. In addition, they can shop 24 hours a day and seven days a week, instead of scheduling their shopping around the store hours of a traditional storefront. When it comes to clothing, easy return policies make it possible to order several sizes and return the ones that don't fit.
Online marketplaces like Amazon make it possible to order almost any item online. If you are shopping for a variety of things, you can even combine them in the same shipment to save money. If you spend at least $35 with Amazon, the shipping is free.
Other online stores offer a huge discount over traditional retail, and some allow you to buy used. eBay led the online shopping charge more than a decade ago, letting users buy and sell used goods. With online shopping, there's really no reason anyone needs to get dressed, drive to the mall, try on clothes and wait in line to make a purchase.
The Dangers of Shopping Online
While there are many benefits of shopping online, you may want to take a moment and consider the dangers before you add items to your online shopping cart. Just as the Internet makes it easy to shop online, it also makes it easy for thieves. With today's online technology, they can steal your personal information or your credit card number from almost anywhere.
For online shoppers who aren't savvy about protecting their information, it can quickly become a disaster when the thief uses the information for personal gain. They could buy purchases on your card, sell your information or even claim to be you. This is why it is important to protect your information while you are shopping online.
Shopping Online Safely
Luckily, there are some ways to protect yourself from thieves while shopping online. These are actually fairly simple, and greatly reduce the chances of your information being stolen. First, you will want to make your that your browser and anti-virus protection are up-to-date.
Once you've found the item you want to purchase, it pays to take a moment to ensure the website is legitimate. Some websites are designed by nefarious individuals to mimic real websites. Check the web address in your address bar, and, if possible, type in the address instead of following a link. Also look carefully at the address to make sure the site is secure. You can check this by looking at the front of the web address. It should begin with https or shttp for a secure website. If the page where you are entering your personal information does not begin with one of these options, do not purchase from this retailer online.
After you're certain the website is trustworthy, consider how you will pay for your purchase. While many of us use our debit cards for everything, a credit card is a better choice online. They offer protections that typically aren't offered through debit cards, including credits if your product is not delivered. At the same time, credit cards usually have a maximum you will be responsible for if your card is stolen. A thief could empty your bank account in a matter of minutes with a debit card.
An even better choice is to use a payment processing service like PayPal to pay online. This prevents the vendor from having access to your credit card information, and adds an extra layer of protection. Never agree to mail cash or wire money. Neither of these options protect you if the transaction doesn't go as planned.
It's easy and convenient to order items online, and there are even several benefits over shopping at a traditional store. You can search for an item online, compare prices, make the purchase and schedule shipping without ever leaving the comfort of your favorite chair. As long as you take precautions to protect your personal and financial information while shopping online, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Ryan Ayers is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education and technology. In this article, he discusses the rise of online shopping, and the security threats it presents. He aims to encourage further educational study through George Washington University Online.