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Shop Smart Online this Holiday Season

Garth Bruen , Thursday, December 5, 2013
Who wants to brave the insanity of holiday shopping at four in the morning when you can shop from the safety of your own home? But we all know it is not truly safe. Sure, you will not be run over by a car in the mall parking lot or by people inside the store but you can still be a victim. Digital Citizens Alliance has released poll results (compiled by Zogby Analytics) which demonstrate an interesting paradox among young shoppers.  Near one-third of 18-24 year-old shoppers admitted to not receiving a gift purchased online. Many of those same people never received a refund or an explanation why. This age group is also extremely suspicious of the safety of online shopping. However, this does not stop them from buying most of their gifts online. This is the same generation now completely tied to credit cards and mobile devices. Shopping exclusively in stores with cash is a rapidly vanishing practice. Beyond the straightforward problem of not receiving purchased merchandise, there are concerns over malware and identity theft which present ongoing abuse. The fact that fear of online shopping does not slow young spenders means the merchants are not as motivated to provide assurances for their customers. If people spent less online and noted security concerns as the reason, the merchants would address these issues in quick fashion.

Holiday SeasonThe threats presented by electronic shopping do not have to be a disaster for online shoppers. Electronic commerce provides criminals with slick tools, but also provides the consumer more accountability. The issue is in knowing how to use that accountability. First, only buy from known online vendors who have clear accountability. Verify the company is locatable in the real world and not just online. Next, use secure purchasing. One positive result from the survey was that most young online buyers used secure websites. Also, when purchasing online, save all receipts and correspondence with vendors. Match any purchase documentation with your credit card statements later. Most legitimate online businesses have package tracking. Use this tracking and sign up for alerts to ensure your gifts are being shipped. If they have not shipped by the stated time, start demanding answers and refunds then –not a month later when the company has disappeared. A good general practice for the New Year is to check your credit history. Many U.S. states allow free annual credit checks; take advantage of it every January. 
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