Shopping safely online

Ryan: Hi, my name is Karen Ryan, an AARP member. Many people are curious about online shopping. So I’m here with Maile Ohye to talk about how to shop safely online. Maile?

Ohye: Online shopping is a great resource, allowing you to order products from the comfort of your home or office and have them shipped directly to you. Online retailers frequently need your personal information, such as home address, phone number, and financial information such as credit card or bank account numbers, in order to shop with them.

So it’s important to be cautious when ordering online. Just like with brick and mortar stores, only give your personal information to businesses you trust. In a lot of ways, judging the trustworthiness of a brick and mortar store is easier because you can see their facilities, observe the transactions that are taking place, and even meet the people working there.

On the Internet that’s not possible. So it’s important to ask yourself a couple of questions before entering personal or financial information on a Web site. If the answer is “yes” to one or more of these questions, the site is probably a safer bet than an unknown site or vendor.

Even if the answer to these questions is “no,” there are other ways to find out whether a vendor is trustworthy. For example, lots of sites allow online customers to rate their experience with vendors. Take the time to read these ratings to find out from past customers if they’ve had good experiences with the vendor you’re considering.

Keep in mind that these reviews aren’t perfect. In some cases, vendors might write positive reviews for themselves. But while you shouldn’t make a decision of where to shop based on these reviews alone, reviews can give you some information about the reliability and value of a vendor.

Another way to stay safe while shopping online is to check out the privacy policy of the Web site you’re ordering from. You can usually find a link to a site’s privacy policy at the bottom of the Web site. The policy will let you know how that site will use your personal and financial information.

Like whether it will sell your information to advertisers and other third parties. If you’re not comfortable with or can’t understand the Web site’s privacy policy, you should probably shop elsewhere. Once you’ve decided to share your credit card or other personal information with the Web site, make sure that the Web site is protecting your information by encrypting it.

What’s encryption? It’s a way that sites like e-commerce Web sites can protect the privacy of your information when sending it over the Internet.

This is done by encoding your information in a way that only they can read. How can you tell if a site is encrypting your information? Just look at the URL when you’re entering your information. If the URL begins with “https” rather than “http,” it means your information will be encrypted.

The “S” in “https” largely refers to “secure.” Some browsers will also let you know that your information is encrypted by showing you a lock on your browser. These signs aren’t infallible, but they’re a good place to start. You should also avoid shopping online or doing any other sensitive online transactions like banking and accessing electronic health records from public computers.

Public computers may not have the security measures like firewalls and anti-virus software that you have enabled on your home computer. So entering personal information on them may put you at risk. And as with any shopping you do, be it on or offline, it’s always a good idea to keep records of your orders to track your purchases.

Ryan: Thanks Maile. I hope these tips help you to shop safely online. Thanks for reading.

Shopping safely online

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