Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Favorite Tips for Online Shopping

While I wrote this article originally for my tech blog it seemed important enough to share on other blogs I maintain.

It’s been five years since media coined the term Cyber-Monday but the truth is everyday is a  great shopping day online.  I planned on writing an article about the safety of online shopping but noticed everyone was already doing it.  Many sites provide the same duplicate tips. So I thought I might include some of the best tips and post them along with my favorites.

Eric Griffith wrote a good article for PC Magazine called
11 Tips for Safe Online Shopping
One unique tip from Eric was
Don't Tell All
”No online shopping store is going to need your social security number or your birthday to do business. But if a bad-guy gets them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. When you can, default to giving up the least amount of information.”

It amazes me how many free Email and other password reset schemes still use easy to find information like your high school, pet’s name and birthday. This kind of information is something that you should keep private.  When you do answer these questions make up answers that you’ll remember but aren’t accurate.

Corrine at Security Garden wrote her
Online Shopping Safety Tips including,

”At checkout, the site web address should be https: and there should be a closed padlock there or in the lower right corner of your browser.  If not, forget about it.  You will be giving away your credit card information!” 

Using PayPal with Internet Explorer notice the “https”

Yahoo Online Store using Google Chrome

For years I’ve heard people say they’re afraid to use their credit card online. As long as you see the https your credit card is safer than it is when you give it to the waiter at your favorite restaurant.

Webroot's safety tips for holiday online shopping included a tip that doesn’t just apply to shopping.
"Go straight to the site.
Rather than browse to online retailers through a search engine where you may encounter malicious links, type the store's URL directly in your browser.”

The bad guys are experts at search engine optimization and frequently “poison” search results with web sites you really don’t want to visit. Just because a web site is the first or second listed on Google doesn’t mean it’s safe. In many cases, the opposite it true.

I have some of my own best tips and the following tip was mentioned in all the articles I’ve mentioned so far.

Don’t use Public WiFi
It used to be only a real hacker with proper tools could capture your data when you used a public WiFi connection. Now the tools are available to anyone so shopping or any use of public WiFi comes with a real security danger. One of benefits of smart phone tethering is you can connect your laptop to your phone for a connection instead of using a public WiFi even if it’s free.

Special Check Out Offers

When you order is complete don’t be surprised if you’re offered a survey, free shipping or other offer that promises to take $5.00 or more off your last purchase. If you read the fine print you’ll find this check out offer may actually a membership. By accepting the offer you may be agreeing to being billed regularly for a membership you don’t want or need.

Take your time!

Don’t rush. Be sure to check into the shipping policy of the store and/or item you’re going to purchase.

Shipping Costs
There are some nice comparative shopping sites and even apps for your smart phone so you can find the lowest price available. Price isn’t everything.  You’ll want to be sure what the shipping costs are. Some times cost is based on price and not weight. Even if they ship in the same box, ordering multiples of the same item stores will multiply the shipping cost.

Shipping Date
Pay attention and make sure the item is in stock.   Be sure your ship date is well before you the date you need to have it wrapped and under the tree.

Return Policies
Lots to consider here but the one to watch out is the dreaded restocking fee.

Three years ago I wrote an article called.
Top Ten Online Shopping Mistakes

Most of those mistakes are still possible including…
False Credentials
”Just because a vendor displays images from the Better Business Bureau or eTrust doesn’t mean they really have been approved.  If buying from an unfamiliar store verify they really do have the credentials they claim.”

If you’re looking for a very unique gift to keep you family and friends safe I also recommend the Gift of WinPatrol PLUS. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Kids on Facebook

The first time I saw my 12 year old grand daughter on Facebook I wasn’t really concerned until I saw that her birthday implied that she was 18 years old.  Thankfully, she wasn’t trying to misrepresent herself. She just knew that Facebook users under 18 have a different experience. It turns out correcting her birth year back to 1996 was a safer experience.


I was actually surprised to see that Facebook took any steps to protect the privacy of 13 to 17 year old kids. Do you think it’s enough? You can guess my answer would be NO! My grand daughter is now legitimately a Facebook member at 13 years old but was still encouraged to access the applications like “Lover of the Day”.

I can’t deny kids and many adults think sharing their private information is the closest thing to becoming a reality TV star. It’s like we’re raising the  Share-It-All Generation. Unfortunately, Facebook shares most of this information with companies who have no physical address or stated privacy policy.

Kids need all the help and direction possible. When it comes to your kids I’m all in favor of  “My Mom is on Facebook”

While this fun video will make you LYAO, if you’re a parent and you let you young kids on Facebook there are few things you should know. Yes, I know many of you are giving in and allowing kids even under 13 to be online so listen up.

First, not only should be a friend of your child, you should have complete access to their account so you can see who they’re friends with and what they post.  Trust me compared to what they might give away on Facebook, you’re not invading their privacy. If they see a screen that says “Allow Access” they should click the little “Leave Application” text and not the big YES button.

If you want to know what happens when they allow an application see my previous post “Who gets your personal information on Facebook”.

Like the video, Facebook is fun and appealing.   Full disclosure:  when my kids were pre-teens they were running Trivia games in online chat rooms. Our computer was in a common area and they weren’t giving away personal information or sharing photos with strangers.  So I can’t tell you what choice to make as a parent but I hope you won’t be afraid to keep your eyes open and teach you kids about what choices they have.

Especially teach your kids to “Think Before You Post” and check out the videos like Everyone.


Thanks to Abby, whose son is a Facebook developer, for the link to the “My Mom is on Facebook” video. :)