Beat The Shopping Lines Online, Safely

Black Friday is traditionally one of the busiest holiday shopping days of the year but many of us wouldn't be caught dead in a store, battling the crowds. Many people are logging on to make their holiday purchases but that does have some risks.

The Early Show's Tracy Smith got some Web safety tips from AOL's consumer advisor, Regina Lewis.

If you decide to do your shopping on the Web, Lewis says, "The truth is, if you go to a Web site and they've been in business for years, they don't stay in business because they are doing something wrong. If you really are suspect, you can go to the Better Business Bureau and search for fraudulent shopping sites."

"Make sure you are shopping on a secure Web site. When you go to the top and you are actually making the transaction in the browser box, the box at the top, you will literally see a change from 'http' to 'https' as in 'secure,'" Lewis explains.

Secure Web sites often have a little lock at the bottom to indicate they're encrypted and Lewis has some thoughts on that: "There is a lock but the top is more foolproof because sometimes people put permanent icons on their compute interest."

Another tip Lewis shares is to make sure to read the fine print. "The one on privacy. Probably the biggest risk there. Sometimes you have to opt out of having your information shared. So be careful what you wish for. That might mean unchecking the box."

"The other is the risk that sites over-promise on shipping. They say free shipping and when you tally the order, it's on some but not all items, some that weigh a certain amount or on delivery, guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas. They say they it'll leave their warehouses but after that, it's Fedex or UPS," Lewis says.

Also, Lewis recommends paying with a credit card. "Here's why, because of the credit's cards encryption the way it's transmitted online, it's tremendously secure. It's not going to get decoded online."

One concern some shoppers have is ID theft but Lewis says there are ways to safeguard yourself against that. "Going back to a credit card, you are on a reputable Web site. That's not about that. Unfortunately it happens after the fact. The most effective right now is order confirmations, fraudulent ones go something like this 'So Mrs. Smith, before we sthip your recently purchased item we just need to confirm ah few things, your credit card, address, social security..,'" she explains. "If you get any e-mails asking for information, don't give them your information ... If it says call, call. If it says go to our Web site, go yourself if you have shopped there but don't take the bait so quickly."

One of the great things is comparison shopping. There are certain sites that allow you to do that. "It's a price game," Lewis says. "One of the reasons we are heading into cyber Monday is people will shop this weekend and say 'I wonder if I can do better.' So if you go to any major shopping area on any Internet service provider or site like shopzilla.com, it does the shopping for you. It scans 35 million products, over 80,000 retailers, including ones you haven't heard of. People discover new Web sites who are willing to undercut the big guys just to get in the game. That works to the consumer's advantage. Then you get a list from lowest price to last. Why wouldn't you pick the lowest price."
  • Daniel Schorn

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