Posted by on Mar 24, 2014 in Frugal For Everyone | 50 comments

One of the really great benefits of the Internet has to be Online shopping. Brick and mortar stores have become so big that shopping there is no longer enjoyable, so I’m pretty happy that the Internet provides another option – armchair shopping. I love the convenience of being able to sit down whenever I want and just browse, looking for the right product.

One of my favourite places to shop online is at Amazon. They have excellent customer service,  a great return policy and a very secure checkout – all things you need from any online store, but which isn’t necessarily a given. I thought today I’d share some things I’ve learned to do or watch for when shopping online, so that everyone can enjoy the experience.

The first place to start is at the beginning (duh) and that is by knowing that the computer itself is safe and secure. Especially when shopping or banking online is it essential to have an up-to-date security program with superior protection against the latest malware (MALicious softWARE).


Know who you’re dealing with. For new, unknown merchants, or even older established ones, it pays to take the time to check the online reviews. You want the merchant to offer the same policies as mentioned above with Amazon. I used to buy and sell on eBay and learned all about the importance of ratings – good sellers will go out of their way to maintain the highest customer ratings. But it’s still ‘buyer beware’ and up to the buyer to make sure they’re dealing with a reputable business – checking the customer ratings is a good way to do that.  
You can check store reviews at They have a huge list of stores they review –  just click on this link Reviews  
Or you can just google the store. Using Sears as an example, you google ‘Sears customer service reviews’ and check the results.

VERY IMPORTANT. The seller’s web address must show an ‘s’ added to http, as in https://www (this means ‘secure socket layer’ which provides an additional layer of security.) Using Sears as an example again, when you first sign on to the shopping site, it is just listed as, but once you proceed to checkout it changes to secure checkout and the ‘s’ is added as shown –

Check the seller’s terms, conditions and privacy statement. Ask “Can this seller provide all you want?” and the biggie – “What recourse do you have if you’re not satisfied with the product?”

There are some really good consumer product review sites available and it doesn’t take much time -and could pay off big time – to look up the latest ratings on any product being considered. You can’t just buy by brand name anymore since so many brands have merged over the past number of years. They still keep their old name, but are actually produced by totally different manufacturers. Take the time to check the product.

This is a very sensitive area that requires caution. When registering with a shopping site always use a strong password with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Make it extremely difficult for anyone to figure the password out.

During checkout, provide only the minimum information needed to process the transaction, usually name, address, phone number, email, and payment information. If any more information is requested, question why and make sure you like the answers. If you become uncomfortable by any of the questions asked, immediately cancel the transaction – there are other suppliers.


Use PayPal or a Credit card to pay – they offer buyers a certain amount of protection against fraud. Do not use a debit card for online purchases as this gives strangers ready access to your bank account, not a good idea at the best of times.


    This is fraud prevention month so here’s an additional reminder…..Banks, Credit Card Companies, PayPal, Gov’t Agencies, etc. NEVER ask for any personal, financial or account information by email. If you get such an email, look up the phone number of the claimed sender, either online or in the phone book, (do not use any information supplied in the email) and call the business. This will do two things – first, you won’t go around wondering if this was a legit request or not, and second, the business needs to know that their name is being used for fraudulent purposes so they can start tracking and taking preventive measures.

    By using the same care as shopping in a brick and mortar store, there really should be no more risk shopping online than anywhere else. You wouldn’t hand a clerk in the store your debit/credit card along with your PIN. The same common sense caution applies to shopping online. Know who you’re dealing with, feel comfortable with the transaction and make sure you go through a secure checkout. Then sit back, grab that drink and enjoy the experience. 
    Talk to you again next week,


    All images courtesy of
    Shopping icons – thanks to digital art
    Computer security – thanks to Stuart Miles
    Shopping girl – thanks to imagery majestic
    Confidential – thanks to Idea go


    1. Lenie, thanks for sharing the stories of the volunteers. They are awesome people and I am glad we have good people like that in the world.!

    2. I loved your tips. I am an avid online shopper for the time it saves me. Nevertheless, in today’s world being diligent regarding online security is critical. 🙂

    3. Wow – A very relevant blog. Well done. Need more bloggers like you! Thanks for sharing – Exploramum 🙂

    4. I shop online a lot, mainly because it is so convenient, and I love Amazon and free shipping with Prime.
      Thanks for the great tips. I will definitely make sure I look for the “s” in the sellers url

    5. I like a bit of both. There are some things that can only be done in person, such as trying on clothes to see how they fit, hang and sit on your body. But there are others such as toys and such where it is such a joy to have it turn up on your doorstep.
      The security is always a problem, but as you have outlined, as long as you are careful you should be right.

    6. I love online shopping! Bought something today in fact. Great tips for anyone looking to safely purchase items online. Thanks Lenie!

    7. I buy online using my PayPal, and I find it somehow safe.
      I can’t say ‘shop’ because I rarely do this unless necessary.

    8. This is good information. I do a lot of shopping online.

    9. Great info, especially if you’re just getting into online shopping for the 1st time.

    10. Great advice! I agree with Tim. Amazon is one of my main go-to sites for online shopping, or the online site for brick-and-mortar stores that I know, like JCPenney or Lowes. I feel comfortable with their reputation and security measures.

    11. Excellent advice for shopping online. I have been shopping online for many many years, and love that I can get free shipping using Amazon Prime for most things that I need.

    12. I knew about the “s” but remain skeptical and usually only buy from sites I know about. Like Amazon. Great tips though and thanks. Tim

    13. As much time as I spend online I’m always a little hesitant about buying things online…well hesitant about everything but books. I’m not keen on returning things and often opt not to purchase if it means I might have to send something back.

      I also thought I knew everything there was to know, but had no idea the “s” meant secure. 🙂

      • There you go Debra, I didn’t think I could teach you anything but there you go. I’m glad to fill in that knowledge gap.

    14. I have a handful of online retailers I shop from. I know a few people who still refuse to shop online or even pay bills online, but no matter what, hackers can get info if they really want it. Just look what recently happened to people who shopped at Target. What I can’t fathom is why American credit cards don’t require a pin number for better security.

      • Hey Jeri – talking about credit cards – don’t the swipe and pay ones bother you. If you lost that card, anyone could use it. I agree, a PIN is a great safety feature which every card should have.

    15. Great advice Lenie, especially for people who are new to shopping online. I have shopped online for years. In the past I also would look for a phone number and call before I place the order. Now, like you mentioned, there are many places to find out about the company you are shopping at.

      • It does pay to take the time to check the online reviews for any business – as we all know the scammers are getting more creative all the time so this checkup is a good defense.

    16. Good stuff, Lenie, Shopping on line is very easy and a great time saver but it has it’s challenges and can be an issue if you don’t follow some simple rules. It pays to pay attention and always be wary. If it looks out of the ordinary then it just may be. 🙂

      • I agree with you Susan – Reputable firms will always abide by the rules – once the rules start being bent is when you have to question the business practices.

    17. This is a very useful post. Nowadays, we have to be so careful with our personal information. I heard about a scam a few months back, where people were receiving emails to pay their monthly bill for the utility company, but the payments were going to a scammer. The emails looked almost identical to the ones that customers normally received, so it was understandable that they might be confused. In an age, where online payments are so common, you can never be too careful!

      • Isn’t is amazing how creative scammers are which makes you wonder why they don’t use that knowledge they have to do good. It seems such a waste. Any request for money through email should be questioned very carefully. Thanks for sharing.

    18. Lenie this is a very good guide to online shopping security and a natural extension of saving money by not being robbed. I do very little on-line shopping except for travel but find all these ideas to be right on the money. Well done !

      • Thanks Paul
        Now that i’m getting older online shopping has more appeal than ever so knowing how to be safe online is very important to me and those are the things I like to share.

    19. I use Paypal, I always feel safe when doing so

      • PayPal does have an excellent support for unauthorized use of your account so I agree, its a pretty safe way to go. Thanks for the comment.

    20. Very Informative Post … specially for a person like me….
      First time I came to know about (https )
      I will be really careful next time. I have really learned how to be safe online… ( Extra Safe)
      Thank you for a nice share

      • Hi Anna
        I’m glad you find the information helpful – the https is very important and something to always watch for. Good to see you back here again.

    21. Good information. I don’t do a lot of online shopping, but your tips were good reminders for me.

      • Safe practices while shopping online is becoming more important all the time. Glad I could help.

    22. Some great tips here! There are some amazing deals to be had online, but you really do need to be careful. I find online retailers are much more customer service oriented than some bricks and mortars store. One thing that’s tripped me up is shipping fees, and also conversion to Canadian dollars – I ordered an item and then realized, by the time it got converted and shipped, it wasn’t much of a deal after all!

      • Krystyna, its funny that you mention about the shipping fees and conversion – next week’s post discusses those very things and provide some sites that will help save money in those areas.

    23. Lenie I loved this! I have become the quintessential arm chair shopper and love Amazon…they have so many things besides books! And you’ve offered some great reminders about security… especially with so many hackers afoot these days. Wonderful post as usual! I enjoy them immensely:)

      • Jacquie, your comments always boost my ego big time – thanks so much. I love arm chair shopping and I think taking the time to check things out really can save you money.

    24. Hi Lennie; This was a solid post covering all the key points of being safe online. I have done a few purchases, but I stay with amazon or some other big brand name. my brother is much more savvy about it so he can tell you the review ratings number of sales made return policy all that stuff. thought it was good you mentioned starting with making sure the computer is safe but wonder if you thought about mentioning making sure your connection is safe too. thanks again and take care, Max

      • Hi Max – thanks for your comments as usual – you always bring up some really good points. I’m not sure what you mean with the safe connection but I’m sure many of my readers will know.

    25. Hi Lenie,
      I too love Amazon. You’re right to point out the secure webserver. I short while ago, I did a blog post on identity theft, which is now the largest crime in the world. So the Habeus Corpus for shopping online is to enjoy the convenience, but be careful too. Your local Chamber of Commerce is also a great place to check if you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a business.

      Kind Regards,

      • I’m getting some great further information here – Arleen shared about the BBB and the address and now you shared about the Chamber of Commerce. I guess you could consider this sharing one of the best things about blogging. Thanks Bill

    26. You can never be too careful. I had my identity stolen several years ago and still don’t know how it happened. As on-line shopping becomes more prevalent, these are great ideas to keep in mind.

      • Christina, I can’t imagine what you went through with the identity theft – this is one reason I put such strong emphasis on keeping your SIN secure. Hope everything is straightened out now.

    27. Personally buy mainly vitamins online. Why pay double the price for buying it in a shop. The problem with all this is that shops are gradually disappearing. Do we really like that development?

      • I don’t like the idea of shops disappearing but I think the stores themselves have something to do with that by becoming too big. It’s no longer fun, at least for me, to shop there so online shopping has become an attractive option.

    28. What is funny about your post is i just bought something of Amazon 1 minute before clicking on your post. You are dead on with your advice…

      • Hi Jay – glad to know I’m not the only one that loves shopping at Amazon. It really is a safe site.
        Thanks for the comment.

    29. With so many innocent people being cheated by these frauds around the globe, it really makes sense to equip ourselves with the best possible ways to counteract these frauds. Nice article. I hope it will help a lot of people!

      • You’re right Tuhin -I also hope it will stop some scams.
        The more information we have, the better. Thanks for the comment.

    30. Lenie- Very good advice. Most companies that you can purchase items online you will not see the https:// until you start to fill out the secure information. I look also to see if the company is a member of the Better Business Bureau. I always look at the return policy and if the company has an address and not a PO box.

      • Arleen, thanks for sharing the information about the Better Business Bureau and the address. I hope my readers take the time to read these comments because this is some more good stuff for them to know and may prevent some fraud.

    31. Lots of good information about how to be sure that your online shopping experience is a good one. It’s crucial to be sure that your info is safe.

      • Its hard to believe that so many people are trying to make a living scamming others. The more we know, the better armed we are.

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