With “Black Friday” right around the corner, and Christmas only a page away on the calendar, it is that time of year again. Door buster deals will, no doubt, bring long lines and even longer wait times again this year, though I haven’t seen as many “Good Deals” advertised this year. The suffering economy and the many people who have fallen on hard times, has made it important to find the best deals on every gift purchased.
Knowing this, I have to assume online shopping will be even more popular this year.
With all this in mind, here are some tips to make sure you are safe and secure when making your online purchases:
- First, and most important – If you are not 100% certain your computer is clean of Ad-ware, Mal-ware, Spy-ware or Viruses, do not make a single transaction on the internet. Ignoring this tip may cost you dearly! It will not do you any good to save all the money you can on the gifts you purchase, if someone else gets your credit card or bank info and robs you blind.
- When shopping online, only use a payment options offering additional fraud protection. PayPal and Verified by Visa are a couple that come to mind. Some credit cards offer online fraud protection as a service for being a card holder. Other credit cards offer guarantees or extended warranties on the items you purchase. It would be good to have both the online fraud protection and an automatic extended warranty, but when shopping online, the fraud protection is the Ace of Spades!
- Only shop from reputable vendors. Start by shopping the websites of companies you know and recognize from the local stores they may have in your town (I.E. Best Buy, JC Penney, K-Mart, Sears, Staples, Wal-Mart and etc.). Then check those prices against well known and trusted online vendors (Apple, Dell, eBay, Geeks.com, Yahoo and others!).
- Do not buy from any online vendor who requires a bank draft, personal check, money order or money transfers for payment. These forms of payment are much harder to trace in the case you get ripped off. Also, be leary of sites who offer ACH withdrawal from your bank account. What stops them from only taking out the amount of the purchase? They could easily take out more! Then you have to worry about your banks policies and potential overdrafts from spending more than you anticipated. At least with a credit card, you will have some pre-authorized limits or amounts and you have the ability to deny charges if the amount on the statement doesn’t match the amount of your receipt.
- Make sure to read the privacy statement of any online website before you make a purchase. Some sites may share various information with other vendors.
- Call the customer service number to see if they will do price matches for online prices. Retailers who offer price matching in their stores, may also offer it online. After all, less money is less money.
- Look for shipping guarantees. Good online retailers will offer “deliver by” guarantees. This way you know for sure the latest date you could receive your order. Also look for things like next day delivery and same day shipping. These are often more important than free shipping. Often, free shipping means the retailer will ship your order, by the cheapest means necessary, and only when they get around to it. I’ve seen some “free shipping” take almost four weeks to be delivered. That isn’t a bargain for you at all. Find out when and how your order will be shipped before making your purchase. Ask for tracking information as well.
- BEWARE of re-furbished, re-certified, re-manufactured, generics and knock-offs! There are thousands of scam artists out there just looking for the next person to rip off. Identify the model number and and compare it to what is available on the manufacturer’s web site. Manufacturers will often re-package open, used, damaged or warranty repaired items for sale as a re-furbished, re-certified or re-manufactured product. These products are then offered at a price which is substantially lower than the price of the same item in brand new condition. Remember that once something has broke once, it is more likely to break again. Some manufacturers give other companies the right to make a generic item and sell it for much less. (Sam’s Cola is not Coke or Pepsi!) In other instances, companies illegally reproduce an item and sell it as an equally comparable item. (Rolex vs. Romex or Swiss vs. Swiss Movement THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!) Check the manufacturer you know to be the original producer of the genuine item, and see what options are available.
- Pay special attention warranties being offered from the retailer. Places like Wal-Mart and Sam’s may offer a product where the model number is only slightly different, but represent it as the same item at a lower price. However, when you open the item you may find it’s warranty to be extremely limited, compared to buying the product from a Staples, Best Buy or direct from the Manufacturer. I’ve seen computers and electronics from Wal-Mart come with 6 month or 90 day warranties, when the manufacturer would actually sell that item with a 1, 2 or 3 year warranted. This is because Wal-Mart negotiates pricing with a manufacturer to attain a specific margin of profit when it is sold.
- A deal that sounds too good to be true, IS! Don’t fall for promotions offering 25% or 50% back in online purchasing credit! This means you have to go back to that online retailer to spend the amount you saved. Many times you have a minimum purchase amount in order to be able to use the credit. What if you don’t like the quality or service that online retailer provided you with. If you get $50 back in online credit towards another purchase, but you have to spend $250 or more to use it, and the first order was $100, you will have spend $300 instead of just $100. That didn’t save you anything!
- Don’t fall for any deal that requires you sign up for anything, even if it is free. You may even be offered a significant discount off a purchase to sign up for some free trial on a service, but the company offering the free trial is banking on the idea that with all the holiday hustle, you will forget to cancel. This may end up costing you more than buying the item with no discount!
We would all like to think people are generally, good! We want to believe we aren’t being ripped off. However, you can easily fall prey to one of these problems, and in the end, you wont have save anything, and may have spent more.
If you want help finding computer or electronic gifts without being ripped off, just reply to this article with your question. I’ll be happy to do what I can to help!