I love to shop online, it is quick, easy and I always seem to discover new products or fun shopping sites.

Billeo Shopping Assistant users have made purchases on more than 16,000 merchant sites online. Undoubtedly, I have never even heard of 95% of the retailers before, and that got me thinking about how to shop safely online when you leave the well-known brands.

Online shopping provides convenience and more inventory, but it opens consumers to more risks than making purchases made in brick-and-mortar store. Here are tips to shop safely online:

Read Reviews

If you are shopping at a site for the first time, do a background check by reading customer reviews.

Don’t buy anything from the site if users complain of identity theft or post negative comments. Check out the site’s privacy and security policies, this will tell you what the merchant does with your information and what safety precautions they take to protect you.

Confirm Web Site Security

Before you enter your payment details at the checkout, be sure to look for the padlock icon.  The padlock icon indicates that the page you are viewing is secure.

In the Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers, you can spot this icon where you enter the Web site address. In Firefox, the padlock is in the bottom right corner of the browser window.  You can also check if the Web page address field includes ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL; the “s” stands for “secure.”

Don’t Save Credit Card Information

Don’t save your credit card details on a merchant site – unfortunately, it is often the weakest link. Yes, it is convenient, but to be on the safe side, uncheck the auto-save box.  It will save you from having to go through the hassle of dealing with claims and reports if your information were to be compromised.

Save Your Receipt

Save your purchase confirmation information. While most merchants send you an e-mail confirming the purchase, don’t rely on it. There are several tools that save receipts,  and are much better than printing because they help you easily search and find receipts later.   Be sure to follow up, look through your credit card statement to make sure there are no surprises in the transactions.

Avoid Junk Mail

Once I bought cookies from MrsFields.com, which resulted in a flood of e-mails about all the cookies I should be buying.  I love their cookies, but not the e-mails.

Unless you want to get marketing e-mails, make sure to uncheck the box that auto-subscribes you to newsletters and promotions from the site.

 

Murali Subbarao is the founder and CEO of Billeo, Inc. Billeo provides a suite of free Online Assistants that save people time and money in all types of online transactions, from shopping to bill pay. To do this, Billeo works with more than 1,500 merchants and 40 banks, and top credit cards, including Visa, Discover and American Express. In 2010, Billeo was named “The Best Free Software” by PC Magazine. Subbarao has worked in high-tech and financial services for more than 16 years, most recently developing Internet Banking and Payment solutions with Hewlett-Packard.