Well, folks, it’s Cyber Monday, and chances are that you are going to be one of the eleventy billion people taking advantage of downtime at work to troll the pre-holiday sales online today. Personally, I love shopping online, particularly when it allows me to avoid the holiday crowds at the mall, and the Cyber Monday deals available make everything more appealing. But if you’re not a veteran of online shopping like I am, then you should probably keep a few things in mind before you venture out into the world of online shopping on its busiest day of the year.
- Be Wary Of Deals Sent Via Email. Sometimes online retailers will send out special deals via email, and they might redirect you to a retailer site and instruct you to enter a code. If you receive a deal via email that you want to use, be wary of using links provided in the email: online phishing schemes will often involve impersonating large retail outlets and ask you to enter in credit card information to a site that looks like it is the larger retailer. To avoid any problems like this, always go directly to the retailer site by entering their address into your browser’s url window. Legitimate offers will ordinarily include a coupon code for you to use during checkout, and doing it this way can safeguard you from scams.
- Only Enter Information That Is Required And Reasonable. There is no reason you should ever have to enter your Social Security Number in order to make an online purchase. You might have to enter your billing address or the three digit number on the back of your credit card, though. When giving information to retailers, even retailers that you are certain are legitimate, you should always operate on a need-to-know basis to the extent that it is possible. Look for the little asterisks beside fields that tell you which pieces of personal information are essential to making your purchase. If you feel uncomfortable revealing all of the required fields, then don’t make the purchase — even large, legitimate companies are the victims of security breaches and information theft on occasion, and as usual, you are better safe than sorry.
- Consider Getting Temporary Account Numbers From Your Bank Or Credit Card Company For Online Purchases. Many financial institutions feature a service where you can get a temporary account number that is good for just one purchase online. Taking advantage of this is a good way to feel extra safe that you will not be overcharged or have your account emptied by online theives.
- Make Sure You Are Buying What You Think You Are Buying. Online shopping is awesome for a variety of reasons, but it does offer some challenges in making sure the item you want is the one you are ordering. Make sure to check things like quantity (e.g. you only want one CF card for your digital camera, not a pack of 10), versions (i.e. did you mean to buy the hardcover copy or the paperback?) and condition (i.e. is that used book that you are buying from Amazon really “like new” in the sense that it’s appropriate to be given as a gift, or is there an inscription inside that will be difficult to explain later?). Online shopping is so quick and easy that it’s doubly important to double-check details whenever possible.
- A Deal Is Only A Deal If You Were Planning On Buying It Anyway. This year, it is reported that 87.7% of online retailers will be offering some kind of special Cyber Monday deal. These deals range from free shipping offers to special heavily discounted offers that change every hour, and the time limitations involved all contribute to a feeling that if you don’t buy now, you will miss out. But the rules for Cyber Monday are the same as they are for any other purchase: a deal is only a deal when you are planning to buy something all along and manage to get it for a better price. Stick to your list, and you’ll wake up on Morning After Cyber Tuesday feeling like a winner.