Photo courtesy ARA Content

 Shopping Safely and Wisely Online

(ARA) -The holiday shopping season is just around the corner, and shoppers are increasingly going online to purchase gifts for friends and loved ones. Online shopping is more popular than ever. According to a recent ComScore Networks survey, consumer online sales for the third quarter of 2002 reached $17.9 billion, up 35 percent from the same period a year ago. Online shopping has increased in popularity because it is convenient, cost-effective and safe -- if you keep a few common sense guidelines in mind.

Richard A. Sherman, advisor to the GE Center for Financial Learning, nationally syndicated columnist and publisher of "Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter," (, has created a list of tips to get even the most computer-wary individual comfortable shopping online.

1. Shop with Retailers You Know

If you are apprehensive about shopping online, start by purchasing an inexpensive item from a retailer you know and trust in the offline world, just to get a feel for the process.

2. Budget for Holiday Purchases

Creating a holiday shopping budget will prevent you from getting in over your head and buying items that you really canít afford. Pick a spending target and try to stick with it. An easy way to do this is by making a list of giftees and writing down a target dollar amount by each name. There is a wealth of financial planning and budgeting information online -- is a good place to start.

3. Use a Secure Web Site

On the payment page of a Web site, look for the prefix https:// at the beginning of the Web page address or a little closed-padlock icon in the lower right corner of your browser window. The ďsĒ indicates a secure site. Click on the padlock icon for additional security information.

4. Pay by Credit Card

Nothing is more misunderstood in the world of e-commerce than the use of credit cards. Purchasing by credit card is the safest method of shopping online. In addition to protection, limiting your online purchases to one credit card will give you a good record of what you spent in one handy statement, helping to keep spending under control. Using more than one card can delude you into thinking you have spent less than you have.

5. Understand the Transaction

Be sure you know and understand what you are purchasing, the total price, delivery date, shipping charges (if any), return and cancellation policies, and the terms of any guarantee.

6. Know your Consumer Rights

The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop in cyberspace. Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its advertisements and no more than 30 days after the order date.

7. Think

You have accumulated a lifetime of common sense, so donít put it on hold when shopping online. If your inner voice is telling you to be wary of a retailer, donít place an order.

By exercising a few safety precautions and a little common sense, you should have your holiday shopping done in no time. The only thing stressful about shopping online should be which present to pick for the person who has it all!

Courtesy of ARA Content