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Tips for Safe Online Shopping on Black Friday

Oct. 30, 2014
Black Friday, Shopping
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It’s not just the crazed crowds and stampedes of shoppers you have to look out for on Black Friday. Due to fraudsters and fine print, making purchases from the comfort of your own home can be dangerous, too.

But you can avoid getting burned on your bargain buy. If you plan on scoring deals online this Black Friday, remember to follow these safety tips.

Know Where to Go

Before you even think about partaking in an online transaction, make sure that the website you’re browsing is reputable. The safest approach is sticking to the official sites of widely known stores.

If you stumble upon a seller that you’ve never heard of before, do you homework. Conduct a quick online search for the company’s information, customer reviews and even a Better Business Bureau accreditation. The extra time this takes will be worth it, especially if you can save yourself from inputting your personal information on a scammer’s site.

Keep an Eye Out for Encryption

If you take nothing else away from this list, commit this to your memory: Don’t trust your financial information on a site that isn’t secure.

You’ll want to make purchases only on websites with a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, encryption. This encryption ensures that the information you plug in when making a purchase is scrambled; that way, hackers can’t easily steal it. Before you submit an online purchase, check for an SSL encryption. It’s easily recognizable by the “s” in https:// (not http://) in the website’s URL. You can also look for a lock symbol somewhere in the browser window.

Credit Trumps Debit

Now that you’ve checked out the website, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for your items. Without a doubt, you should always opt to make online purchases with your credit card, not your debit card. Credit cards give you greater protection against fraud, and even if your card information falls into the hands of a criminal, it’s much more likely you’ll be able to get all of your money back.

Be Careful With Gift Cards

If it’s a gift card you hope to buy this holiday season, be leery. Gift cards can be risky purchases if they are attained from a virtual marketplace. Sometimes, gift cards purchased from third-party sellers turn out to be used or not loaded with the amount of funds vendors claimed they’d contain. If you want to buy a gift card, order it from the card’s original seller. So, Target gift cards are safest when purchased from Target, Macy’s gift cards from Macy’s, and so forth.

Read the Fine Print

This tip is more about protecting yourself from retailer policies than it is about watching out for criminals. As a general rule, review a company’s return procedures, refund policies, delivery costs, shipping estimation and warranty information. You’ll want to know exactly how much it will cost and how long it will take to receive your online order. Plus, you’ll need to know what your options are in the event that the product you purchased turns out to be unsatisfactory.

Preserve a Paper Trail

In the event that something goes awry with your purchase, you’ll want to have proof of your transaction. The Better Business Bureau recommends that you save any email confirmations you receive from retailers. Also, keep a record of the final “your order has been placed” webpage screen.

Be Vigilant

Even when your shopping spree is complete, you should remain cautious. You’ll want to keep tabs on your accounts and statements to ensure that the only charges that appear on your bill are ones that you actually made. If something suspicious or out of the ordinary appears, contact your financial institution right away.

Online Black Friday specials can be a convenient and effective way to save money and score some of the season’s hottest products. Follow these tips to make your online shopping experience a merry and bright one.



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