Online Holiday Shopping Tips

Jayne Hitchcock here – I was asked to speak at a local library recently about safe online shopping over the holidays and thought I’d share with you what I shared with them.

The first question I always get asked is “Is it safe?” Yes, it is! You’re more likely to have your credit card number or identity stolen offline than online.

  • The FTC found in 2013 that an average of 14% of consumers were victims of identity theft*
  • Only 2% were related to Internet services
  • These included misuse of credit card(s), misuse of social security number(s), misuse of victim’s name to rent an apartment, get medical care, a loan, etc.
  • Using your credit card online is safer in many respects

Think of it this way: When you give a waiter/waitress your credit card, then they walk away to a cash register – do you know what they’re doing with your card?

The same goes with retail clerks – they could easily turn around with your credit card in hand, and swipe it through a reader that they can later download to a computer, then use or sell the credit card number.

If a store or restaurant still uses carbon copies (and some still do), they keep one – what’s to stop an employee from writing down your credit card number?

Shopping online is easy and safe – if you know what to look for:

  • Try to use one credit card if you can to make all your online purchases
  • If something does happen, it’s much easier to cancel one card than to have to chase down several (which happens often offline)
  • Know the merchant you are purchasing from
  • If a merchant has their “storefront” on a free web hosting site, think twice unless you know them well
  • Check shipping rates and return policies
  • Check delivery time estimates

How Can You Tell If A Web Site Is Safe To Shop?

Many web sites use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to encrypt the credit card information that you send over the Internet. These sites usually inform you they are using this technology.

A different security technology is Secure Electronic Transaction, or SET. SET or SSL technology are designed to make your connection secure.

Or check the web browser you are using as follows:

In MS Internet Explorer, on the left is what you see when you are shopping online. Look at the web site address bar and notice it reads Once you put an item into your shopping cart, it should look like the right, with an “s” inserted to read The “s” means it is secured.

msieunsecured msiesecured

If you don’t see it as being secure, get out of there and find another site to shop at.

If you have the experience of a transaction gone wrong:

  • Try resolving the situation with the merchant via e-mail and a phone call
  • If that doesn’t work, call your credit card company or bank and dispute the charge(s)
  • File a complaint with the BBB online in the state where the merchant is located (
  • File a complaint with the FTC online (

Some other things to look out for:

  • If someone asks for your checking or savings account number, do NOT give it to them
  • Make sure to check all the charges before checking out
  • If the merchant asks you to transfer money into their banking account or wire it via Western Union, DO NOT do that
  • When you visit a company’s website, an unauthorized pop-up screen created by an identity thief could appear, with blanks for you to provide your personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens.
  • Keep documentation of your order. When you’ve completed the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page and/or you might receive confirmation by email. Print or save that information and keep it handy in case you need it later.

A lot of online merchants are offering free shipping, deep discounts , BOGO (Buy One Get One Free), and some even offer free gift wrapping. When you go onto a site, look around to see if there are any discounts or other things you can take advantage of.

A lot of the major sites have a “Deal of the Day,” such as Best Buy, K Mart, Wal Mart,, Sears and many others. I check those out just about every day and have snagged some great deals.

Some of my other favorites are:

Happy shopping!


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3 Responses to Online Holiday Shopping Tips

  1. Ruth McCarty says:

    Thanks, Jane. Lots of useful information here.

  2. Ruth McCarty says:

    I typed in Jayne and as I hit post I saw it spelled Jane. Sorry.

  3. Netcrimes says:

    No worries, Ruth – it happens all the time!

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