Safer Online Shopping Savvy tips: everything you need to know
Everything you need to know about safe and savvy online shopping
lOVE ONLINE SHOPPING? You’re not alone. After all, you don’t have to fight traffic to drive to the mall and circle the parking lot; online stores are open 24-7, and you can shop in your pyjamas; it’s easy to compare prices between multiple online retailers; product selection is vast, including many stores and unique items sold outside of Canada; and products are shipped right to your door.
But to ensure a smooth online shopping experience, take heed to these following safety tips.
Look for the lock Always use a secure internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data dur- ing transmission. You will see a little lock icon on your browser (and usually “https” at the front of your address bar) to confirm it’s a secure connection.
Pay securely On a related note, only shop on sites that take secure payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal, which is electronically linked to your credit card or bank account. Never send cash or a cheque. When shopping at an unfamiliar merchant site, look for some sort of security seal of approval, such as DigiCert, Better Business Bureau or VeriSign.
Update your software Whether you shop on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, always keep the operating system up to date to avoid cybercriminals exploiting a weakness. Also use good anti-malware (“malicious software”) that includes anti-virus and a firewall.
Do your homework When on auction sites like eBay, check the seller’s reputation and read comments before buying a product to see what the experience was like for past customers. Also, don’t forget about the No. 1 tip about shopping: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You won’t find an iPhone X for $300.
Use good passwords A good password is at least eight characters long and includes letters, numbers and symbols. Or use a passphrase, which is a long string of words together, and include a number and symbol, too. For example, the sentence “My dog Emma has a birthday April 16!” could be used to create a passphrase like “MdEhabA16!”
MOBILE PAYMENTS 101
Ever notice how lineups at retail aren’t as long as they used to be?
Perhaps this has something to do with the growing popularity of electronic wallet apps, which work with your mobile device – such as a smartphone or smartwatch – so you can pay for something with a simple tap or wave at a checkout counter.
Also referred to as mobile payments, these electronic wallets (ewallets) are not only fast and easy to set up and use, but they’re widely accepted, secure and offer other benefits to the shopper and retailer.
How does it work? The premise is simple: Canadians can use a compatible smartphone or smartwatch to make a purchase at supported retailers – even if they’ve left their cash or cards at home.
Phones can serve as an e-wallet if they’re embedded with near field communication (NFC), a shortrange wireless radio technology that lets you simply touch a merchant terminal – the same ones that support those tap-and-go contactless credit cards like Visa’s payWave and MasterCard’s PayPass, which also use NFC technology.
Purchases usually get capped at $100 or so, but no PIN is required to complete the purchase – a convenience boon for both the customer and retailer. (Since your phone requires a code or fingerprint to unlock, your account is safe if you lose your device.)
Most mobile payment solutions today are tied to an app provided by a financial institution, with most of Canada’s major banks onboard.
Plenty of options You can use your smartphone or smartwatch anywhere contactless payments are accepted, which means thousands of merchants across Canada.
The process is similar between the big mobile payment providers, such as Apple Pay (for iPhone), Samsung Pay (for Samsung devices) or Android Pay (for Android phones). If it’s not already preloaded onto your device, you download the app and then scan your credit or debit card (or type in the details).
For purchases more than $100, ewallets usually require you to validate yourself at point of purchase. With Apple Pay, for example, you’ll place your finger or thumbprint on the iPhone’s circular Home button to prove it’s you (“biometrics authentication”) or have your face scanned with iPhone X (since the Home button is gone). Other solutions may require a PIN code.
These major players do not disclose anyone’s financial information; it exchanges a unique numerical “token” instead of actual credit or debit card numbers with the retailer. And there is no cost for shoppers to use these mobile payment solutions.
If you’re intrigued by mobile payments but would rather dip your toe in the water than dive in head first, try buying something inexpensive with your smartphone the next time you’re out, such as a cup of coffee or magazine, and you’ll see it’s a fast, convenient and secure way to pay.
5 GREAT SHOPPING APPS TO SAVE YOU MONEY
Whether you like to shop online or at retail, arming your smartphone with the right apps can save you time, money and frustration.
Not all of them work the same way, but we’ve compiled a list of our favourites for Canadian shoppers.
Here are five worthy picks for both iOS and Android devices.
1 Flipp Consider Flipp the ultimate flyer aggregator. Available for smartphones and tablets, simply use your fingertip to select what retailers matter to you – whether it’s an electronics store, clothing chain or supermarket, and so on – and you’ll be able to see the latest flyers that showcase new products and sales around you. Clip favourites, add items to your shopping list, see discounted items and much more.
2 Ebates It’s one thing to save money while shopping smartly, but what about earning money? The free Ebates app pays members cash back every time you shop online through participating retailers. Here’s how it works: sign up for a free account and then every time you shop at one of the supported stores (and there are many),
you’ll start earning cash that can be sent to you via cheque or deposited into a PayPal account.
3 RetailMeNot One of the most popular coupon sites and apps, RetailMeNot offers more than 500,000 coupons that can be redeemed at more than 50,000 retail and online stores in North America, so chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for after typing in a product name in the search window. Each coupon shows you when it was used last, user comments and more. Also consider apps from Shop.ca, Save.ca and RedFlagDeals.
4 ShopSavvy If you’re hoping to find a bargain while shopping at retail, ShopSavvy takes advantage of your smartphone’s camera by letting you scan barcodes of products in front of you. Within a second or two, you’ll see how much the same product costs online or nearby at a competing store via the phone’s GPS – including the option for directions to the stores that have the product cheaper. As you can surmise, retailers don’t really like this one. 5 Marketplaces While shopping at retail is fine, don’t forget about online marketplaces such as eBay, Kijiji and even Amazon. Contrary to popular belief, not all goods on eBay are “previously enjoyed” (more than half are brand new) and, if you don’t want to bid for something, many items can be purchased outright. Owned by eBay is Kijiji, Canada’s No. 1 most popular online classifieds site that also lets you meet up to buy or sell in person.
SCORING A GREAT DEAL WHILE ONLINE SHOPPING
We all have that friend who always seems to get the best deals while shopping. Oh, you know the one. You spend $120 on designer jeans, and they seem to find the exact same pair for $50. And their 4kTV is bigger, thinner and smarter – yet you paid the same amount. What do they know that you don’t? Well, perhaps they’re shopping online, where you can often find great deals among the highly competitive landscape. And the products will ship to your door, to boot.
If you’re looking to save some serious cash in 2018, let’s look at a few ways to score a great deal while online shopping.
Research rules Because you’ve got many thousands of stores at your fingertips, be sure to research prices on the web – and it helps when you know exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, there are price comparison sites that can do the work for you, such as pricegrabber.com and redflagdeals.com. If you shop online, be sure to factor in shipping costs. Speaking of research, also read reviews from both critics and customers, to avoid buying a dud, on popular sites such as amazon.ca.
App it up Smartphone and tablet owners have no shortage of great apps to help you save money. For example, eBates.ca gives you cash back on purchases you make online (the percentage varies by retailer), while RetailMeNot offers many thousands of coupons and codes to snag a bargain. Most of these apps have website equivalents, too, in case you prefer to shop using a personal computer instead of a mobile device.
Warranty wise Whether you buy at retail or online, it generally doesn’t pay to buy an extended warranty for your consumer electronics, as they aren’t likely to break down during the extended service contract period. Consumer Reports also warns of extended warranties that have fine-print terms that limit or void your claims. That said, if the extended warranty is very affordable (compared to the overall cost) and can extend the warranty period significantly, perhaps it’s worth the peace of mind.