Tech Tuesday #8: Buying Safely Online

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TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Jeanne from Fitchburg asks, “How do I buy stuff online without getting scammed?”

There’s one absolutely foolproof way to NOT get scammed with a purchase: Don’t buy anything.

Failing that, there are a few quick and easy tips:

  1. Use a credit card, NOT a debit card (or PayPal, etc). Even when playing with well-known vendors it’s always best to play with someone else’s money. If you buy something that isn’t as advertised (or a big company charges you twice for that new platinum-plated toaster oven), it’s a world of difference. The debit card holder sees their money taken immediately…calls the merchant, calls the bank, and after a couple days the errant money finds its way back into its proper place. The credit card holder calls the bank, fills out a form, and the problem goes away. I’m not a big fan of credit cards and consumer debt, but this is why credit cards are essential in 2012.
  2. Use only well-know vendors or stores. Yes, google shopping says that joesplatinumtoasters.com has the same toaster for 20% less than anywhere else, but is it worth it? If anything in this post is news to you….stick with Amazon, buy.com, and other stores where you can return online purchases in-store.

    Elite <em>Platinum</em> 23 Liter <em>Toaster Oven</em>

  3. Factor in shipping costs. You can buy an aftermarket front bumper cover for a 2006 Subaru from Amazon.com for $81. The tiny print below says, “+ $70.01 shipping.” One can buy the same bumper from a local auto parts store for $92 including tax
    .SUBARU LEGACY OEM STYLE FRONT BUMPER COVER
  4. There’s more to this than money, though. If you know what you want, it only makes sense to buy online from a reputable vendor and save money. There are times when we don’t really KNOW what we want/need. Perfect opportunity to get into “buy local” mode and go to a store to take advantage of their knowledge…and buy something! It is pretty lame to get the info from a local expert then go home and order from Amazon to save 5%.
  5. Make sure your computer is updated, with antivirus software, and stop to think before clicking the “Buy Now” button.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

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