November 2017 — Shopping Safely Online

General Tips

Keyboard with credit cards

There is lots to recommend online shopping — the cup of coffee by your side on the couch, not having to hike from the far reaches of the parking lot, avoiding the virus-swap which is inevitable in large crowds of people.   Here are some thoughts for protecting the security of your information to keep in mind before pressing that “Submit Order” button.



Some thoughts from PC Magazine

  1. Use familiar websites
  2. Look for the lock — SSL should be protecting your transactions
  3. Check your statements online, throughout the season
  4. Keep your anti-virus program up to date
  5. Use Strong Passwords
  6. Avoid Public Networks
  7. Use a VPN
  8. Buy gift cards from reliable suppliers

CNet adds

  1. Don’t send your credit card details via email, post them on social media (even in a private message), or enter them on an unsecured website
  2. Don’t give away more information than you need. Retailers generally don’t need to know details like your date of birth or social security number, so why disclose it if you don’t have to?
  3. Check for a physical address and contact details like phone numbers for the vendor before buying
  4. Remember to log out of your account after making a purchase
  5. It’s worth using a separate browser that you regularly keep up to date for shopping and banking online, and another for everyday web use.
  6. Consider opening a second email account specifically for online shopping purposes to help minimize spam, and keep a track of which service is using your email address for what purpose.
  7. If you have a Gmail account, you can append a plus symbol (+) to the end of your username to help filter your email. For example, you could enter your email address in the format of “” and then set up a filter within Gmail so everything sent to that address goes straight to a label called “Amazon”.
  8. Research your retailer. Make sure to fully check out the retailer’s credentials if it’s not a big name you have heard of before. A quick search of the site name should turn up results and reviews about the service, but keep an eye out for overly positive reviews on user forums that might not be legitimate.
  9. Use a payment method with buyer protection. Although debit cards ensure you are using your own cash to make a purchase, many do not offer the same robust buyer protection as other options if something does go wrong. A credit card, PayPal or a virtual wallet option give you more flexibility when it comes to requesting a chargeback.
  10. Don’t save your credit card info at the retailer site. Although it makes it very convenient to make repeat purchases, it is worth unchecking any option that lets the retailer store your credit card details on file. This way if your account is compromised, at least your financial details are not revealed.

If you use your tablet or smartphone for shopping, a little additional security is in order:

  1. Make sure a password or access code is enabled — you don’t want your financial stuff at risk if you lose your phone!
  2. Use vendor-supplied apps only from known vendors

Payment Methods

Direct – the merchant has your card number

  1. Credit Card
  2. Debit Card

Mediated – the  merchant never sees your card number

  1. PayPal
  2. ApplePay
  3. AmazonPay
  4. AndroidPay/GoogleWallet

Vendors and Policies


  • Ship to store? Not around here!
  • Return policy return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of delivery for a full refund. During the holidays, items shipped by Amazon between November 1st and December 31st can be returned until January 31st
  • Payment methods: Credit/Debit, Amazon Store Card, Checking Account
  • Amazon Prime is a subscription service which promises free 2-day shipping on many Amazon items, for 10.99/month.  There is also some content which comes with that — Amazon Video, Amazon Music, and even photo storage space.  Prime service can be shared within the household.  I figure if you order 2 or more Prime items from Amazon in a month it’s a pretty good deal.  Be aware, they are trying to make you go to Amazon first, and it’s a strategy that is working for them.


  • Ship to store? Sure, you can save on shipping if you pick up at White Oaks in Springfield
  • Return Policy 180 days on many things!
  • Payment Methods Credit/Debit, Macy’s Card


  • Ship to store?  Yup.  Does not always save on shipping costs though.  Often just as cheap to send it home.
  • Return Policy: Items sold and shipped by can be returned, exchanged or replaced (if the item is in stock) at any Walmart store, or returned by mail within 90 days of when you receive them Items using “Pay with Cash” must be returned to the store Items purchased from dealers or resellers and not directly are not eligible for return, refund, or exchange
  • Payment Methods: Credit/Debit, PayPal, Visa Checkout, Masterpass, Chase Pay, Cash at Store


  • Ship to store? Yup. They call it “Order Pickup” Our Order Pickup service allows you to order items from and pick them up at your local Target store. To see if an item is eligible for Order Pickup, look for free ship to store or free order pickup when adding the item to your cart. You can also shop from a list of Order Pickup eligible items by browsing any category and selecting buy online & pick up from the availability drop down
  • Return Policy: Most unopened items in new condition and returned or exchanged within 90 days will receive a refund or exchange. Some items have a modified return policy noted on the receipt, Target policy board (refund exceptions), or in the item department. Items that are opened or damaged or do not have a receipt may be denied a refund or exchange.
  • Payment Methods: Credit/Debit, PayPal


  • Ship to store? Nope. Etsy is a virtual “mall” with a lot of independent sellers who usually do not have  brick and mortar stores.
  • Return Policy : Depends on the seller.  The link is to my sister’s page, where she explains her policies.
  • Payment Methods: Depends on the seller.  My sis only takes PayPal.


  • Ship to store? Nope. eBay is a virtual “mall” with a lot of independent sellers and usually do not have a  brick and mortar stores.
  • Return Policy:  Depends on the seller.  Check seller ratings before buying!
  • Buy from “Top Rated Sellers.”  eBay customer service pages tell us that
    Top Rated Sellers consistently deliver outstanding customer service. To qualify, you’ll need to have:

    • An eBay account that’s been active for at least 90 days
    • 100 or more transactions and $1,000 in sales during the last 12 months with US buyers
    • A defect rate less than or equal to 0.5%, with 3 or less defects from unique buyers
    • Cases closed without seller resolution less than or equal to 0.3%, and 2 or less cases
    • Late shipment rate less than or equal to 3%, and 5 or less late shipments
    • Tracking uploaded within your stated handling time, and carrier validation for 95% of transactions to US buyers
  • Payment Methods: Depends on seller, but PayPal is popular, as are credit/debit cards