Costly online shopping mistakes

I hate shopping. I love a good walk, but not one that involves shops. So the obvious solution is … shop online. But there are pitfalls for the gullible. I’ve made them.

I was recently moved by images of a gorgeous dress on a website I was not familiar with. And the price was ridiculously cheap. Yes, I know, alarm bells should have sounded. At the very least, I should have sought reviews about the website. It took four months and about 100 emails to get my money back after I returned the items, which were nothing like the photos, but I got there!

So what are the golden rules when shopping online?

Don’t use a public wifi connection to do your online shopping.
Just as you wouldn’t use public wifi to do your online banking, don’t use it to buy goods online. Your information is not secure and you don’t want to inadvertently share your account passwords and credit card information.

Symantec Corporation, the company behind Norton anti-virus and other cybersecurity software, told “Sure, shopping doesn’t seem like it involves sensitive data, but making purchases online requires personal information that could include bank account and retailer login credentials. Shopping isn’t something you want to do on an unsecured wifi network.”

Use a credit card rather than a debit card.
Card numbers are vulnerable to theft and hacking. I know, though all three incidents had happy endings.

If a credit card is hacked, the money is generally refunded while your financial institution investigates. If your debit card is hacked, you’re out of pocket during that period and the risk is that an account may be drained before you realise there’s a problem.

Don’t assume that a discounted price is a discounted price.
My husband is adamant that sales staff re-tag all items with inflated prices before they mark them down. Whatever – do your homework and research prices on other sites before you buy.

Check out the returns policy.
This was another of my mistakes. While many well-known sites offer free, no-nonsense returns complete with return form, don’t assume this is standard practice. A certain clothing site made me pay for the return – to China – and then argued about the validity of my concern, i.e., the fabric was so poor you could almost see through it!

Also, check how long the return policy is valid for. If the product falls to pieces after two months, can you still return it?

Research the research.
It’s one thing to do your research about a certain website, but just make sure any reviews are bona fide. A recommendation from one random stranger does not mean you should trust that site. Reviews can be manipulated.

Is there a free option?
So you want to buy a stand-up paddleboard. Don’t forget to check such sites as Facebook Marketplace to see if someone in your area wants to get rid of one – for free or for a bargain price. A son recently bought a lounge suite in great condition for $50 just because the owner had a new one coming and needed this one gone before the end of the day.

Have you been caught out online shopping? Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

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