Caveat Emptor

While online shopping can be fun and convenient and it is important to remember that as with in store shopping things can sometimes go wrong.

It could be a case of poor customer service, misleading advertising, technical malfunctions, viruses or scams.

I myself have been the unfortunate victim of scammers in the past and it can be a very stressful experience.

Caveat Emptor is Latin for “Buyer Beware” and it essentially means that buyers/consumers should exercise caution when making purchases lest the product or service you receive not be as described or unfit for its intended purpose.

It is therefore imperative to take all necessary steps to ensure your own safety when making purchases online and there are countless articles available on the internet with warnings and tips to keep your online shopping experiences safe and satisfying.

Here is a list of things I’ve learned to make a habit of while shopping to keep myself, my details and my money safe whether online or in store.

  • Research the retailer and shop with businesses you can trust:

A good way to familiarise yourself with the way online shopping and e-commerce works is to start with online retailers that already have a strong market presence and a secure online shopping website. Most will have secure servers for processing transactions and fully established returns and privacy policies. Maybe start with the big name store chains first and go from there.

Take the time to read reviews of other shoppers. Do a Google search of the company you’re looking to buy from and if you are in any doubt of their reputation shop elsewhere.

In the past I have found myself placing orders and paying money to online retailers that I had not taken the time to research first and suffered the consequences.

There are unfortunately many scammers and shoddy businesses out there who will accept your money and provide you with an unreliable service, an unsatisfactory product or cut off all contact with you altogether.

Yes, this has happened to me before.

Remedying the situation is often a drawn out process of chasing up the retailer, contacting your financial institution and sometimes your local consumer affairs authority. Trust me, this process is painful. There’s a lot of back and forth communication and long waits before issues are resolved.

Shopping around and taking necessary steps to protect yourself will save you money and lots of headaches in the long run.

  • Ensure the website you’re on uses an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Encryption during the checkout process.

It restricts access to your credit card payment information to you and the retailer exclusively. You can tell if the site you’re using has this by looking to the URL address bar.

During the checkout process the web address will go from http:// to https://. The ‘s’ indicates that an SSL encryption is in place. Also a padlock icon may appear next to the web URL.

  • Familiarize yourself with the store’s Privacy, Shipping & Returns Policies

As long winded and complicated as these policies can be to read, it does pay to take notice of the privacy, shipping, returns and refunds policy.

I myself have learned to pay special attention to a retailer’s returns, exchanges and refunds policies in particular at both instore or online.

While it is expected that if an item is found to be damaged, faulty or not as described a retailer is obligated to provide repair, replacement or refund of the item in question.

However, in the case of a change of mind a retailer may refuse to cancel an order altogether or may just offer a store credit in lieu of a cash refund even if the item hasn’t yet been dispatched from their supplier or warehouse.

Make sure you take your time purchasing an item, ask questions if necessary and be comfortable with delivery times and refund terms before you part with your money.

  • Check Your Bank Statements Regularly

This makes sense in general. Your credit card and bank details are sacred and checking your bank account to ensure there are no unexpected or fraudulent charges is essential, especially when you enter your credit card details directly into a website’s payment system regardless of whether they claim to use SSL encryption or not.

Also if you subscribe to something ongoing that is likely to result in ongoing charges, you will want to be sure that you’re only being charged the amount you expect.

This is especially true with services like webhosting, domain registration, media, telephone and internet services which offer promotional prices to start with but then increase when your subscription term renews.

Also there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on the budget.

Credit, debt and overdrafts can quickly get out of hand. Mounting interest and penalty fees can also cause big problems so it’s important to spend within your means.

  • Keep Antivirus Software & Passwords updated

Keep your antivirus software up to date and ensure your firewalls are active. Also, ensure your Wi-Fi / internet connection is secure and password protected. Use strong passwords when creating accounts on your various shopping sites and try to change them regularly. Keep the bad guys guessing!

  • Be Wary of Public Terminals & Email Scams

If you’re going to enter your banking/financial information over the internet it isn’t recommended to do so on a public computer such as airport, hotel or library computers.

Public computers are not likely to have strong security measures in place and are accessed by possibly hundreds of different people. If you forget to log out of an account which has your credit card details stored, there’s no knowing who might come across your financial information and use it.

If I use public WiFi connections I always do so using a VPN (virtual private network) to keep my browsing activity safe from prying eyes. There are several apps and programs available that can allow you to do this. Google searching is a good way of finding out how a VPN works and many of them can be downloaded as apps for your devices or as extensions for your browser. Check the reviews and recommendations by other users to see which one is best for you.

Another point is not to send your credit card details by email. Emails can be intercepted and the email contents retrieved. If your chosen online retailer doesn’t accept online payments (which is rare) either phone in the details or shop elsewhere.

  • Inspect purchases

Inspect your online purchases and notify the retailer asap if your item is damaged or not as described so they can begin the process of refund or exchange with you.

  • Keep receipts

Keep your receipts and invoices as proof of your purchases in case you require refund or exchange.

You may also need them for insurance purposes.

By exercising a little common sense and vigilance you should hopefully avoid any misuse of your personal and financial information.

Please note that even the most experienced of us will make mistakes and fall into traps.

There are plenty of other useful tips to keep in mind and I urge you do some research and use safe practices when shopping either online or instore.

I am by no means an expert on consumer affairs or internet security so it’s important to use your own judgement and know your rights when making purchases of any kind on any platform.

My articles reflect my own personal experiences and do not guarantee your experiences with the same retailers or products.

I do hope however that my articles inspire and entertain you and that you enjoy following my journey.

Thanks for taking the time to read this section.

May your shopping experiences be safe, secure and enjoyable!

  • Lady V xoxo