Online Shopping Safety Tips

As convenient as Internet shopping can be (stores never close, no parking problems, no cranky salespeople), there are as many hazards. There are many good buys online, it’s easy to assume that everything is a good buy.  The simplicity of online shopping can blind us to potential pitfalls.


The way to become a savvy online shopper is to know how to avoid these hazards:

Hidden costs. The quoted price may not be the full price. It may not include applicable sales tax (varies by state and merchant) or the costs of shipping and handling. “Handling” can include just about anything that merchant wants to charge for the box, packing materials, tape and labor to put all of that together. The cost of shipping can vary greatly depending on the carrier and speed of delivery.

Unscrupulous merchants. There are millions of online merchants online including some with no scruples. The way to avoid this hazard is to know your merchant. Stick with merchants you recognize because they have brick and mortar stores. Read the reviews others have posted regarding their experiences with that merchant.

What, no refunds? While many do offer to refund your money if you are not satisfied, merchants are not obligated to accept items for refund, exchange or credit unless the item is defective. Know the seller’s refund policy before you place your order. Will you have to pay for the return shipping? Will there be a restocking fee? Will you get a refund or store credit toward another purchase? 

Runaway debt. Entering a 16-digit number is so easy that it can pose a serious hazard to your wealth. If you are not certain you have the money for your online shopping as soon as your credit-card statement arrives, rethink what you’re about to do.

Keep these safety tips handy whenever you shop online:

Exercise discipline. Keep track of your spending. Write a check to your card company as soon as you make the purchase.

Get the best deal. Use a shopping bot like or to comparison shop. Does Amazon have the lowest price? PriceJump knows, so be sure the check. Take your time, check thoroughly.

Online coupons. Before you buy check sites like and for a “coupon code” for this merchant. 

Count the full cost. Always compare the full cost including shipping, handling and tax.   

Order early. You want to avoid expensive overnight shipping whenever possible. And when you must have something quickly, make sure the total cost including that pricey shipping is still within your budget. Seriously though, shop early to save.

Read the fine print. Know your return and refund rights. When will the product ship? How can you track your order?

Keep good records. Be sure to print a copy of your order confirmation for your records. Save any email receipts. Do not hesitate to contact its customer service if you have any questions or concerns.

Question: Got any online shopping horror stories? Oh, do tell. Your experience could really help others. Besides, we want to know all the dirt.

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2 replies
  1. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    How about true safety by avoiding identity theft?
    Select one credit card for all online purchases. Use that card for only online purchases (including never using it in a brick and mortar store). It is easy to track all purchases and keep accurate records when only 1 card is ever used. Easy to make sure that with all the threats out there with stores being hacked that only 1 card with information is potentially compromised.
    Never use the same passwords for websites. Use a unique password for each site.
    Stay safe by using unique log in IDs as well. How many people use the same ID for multiple websites? Once a user ID and password is discovered it is easy for hackers to gain access, especially if you use the same password or similar variants for all passwords.

  2. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I learned three lessons about shopping online. One: Do not use an easy password for your Paypal account. I used a family first name without any capitals and my account was easily hacked. Fortunately I found the problem before the money was taken from my checking account, and Paypal canceled the transactions. Two: Avoid saving payment options. I had saved the payment options on my Walmart account and someone accessed it and tried to buy a laptop, to be picked up in a Southern state nowhere near my home. Three: Check you bank account every day! Since I saw the Walmart transaction hitting my account the day of the attempted theft, it was still in the approval process. The bank easily canceled the transaction at that point. But my sister had a problem with her Paypal account being hacked and once the transactions actually came out of her account, the bank gave her a hard time. They told her she had to go to the merchant to get a refund, and the merchant was not cooperative. I don’t know if she ever got that money back, and it was hundreds of dollars.

    One extra tip: I don’t like the hassle of having to unlock my phone all the time, so I never use it to make sensitive transactions and I don’t have apps that go directly to my bank account. I don’t store shopping passwords on my laptop, either, just in case it gets lost or stolen.


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