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Best Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Shop where you trust
Shopping IRL (in real life) offers this advantage: You’ll usually know the business and the inventory exist. But on the web, some businesses are fabricated by people who just want your credit card information and other personal details. Consider doing online business only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before.
Size up the business
Break out your detective skills when you want to buy something from a new merchant. Does the company interact with a social media following? What do its customer reviews say? Does it have a history of scam reports or complaints at the Better Business Bureau? Take it one step further by contacting the business. If there’s no email address, phone number or address for a brick-and-mortar location, that could be a red flag that it’s a fake company.
Beware rock-bottom prices
If a website offers something that looks too good to be true—like rock-bottom prices or an endless supply of free smartphones—then it probably is. Use similar websites to compare prices and pictures of the merchandise. Perpetually low prices could be a red flag that the business doesn’t have those items in stock. The website may exist only to get your personal information.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With a little tech know-how and the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite coffee shop, someone can intercept what you’re looking at on the web. That can include emails, browsing history or passwords. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name and credit card information. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to shop online or log in to any website while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi.
Use a VPN
If you must shop online on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server. Think of it as a tunnel your Internet traffic goes through while you browse the web. Hackers lurking nearby can’t intercept it, even if they have the password for the Wi-Fi network you’re using. A VPN means you’ll likely have a safe way to shop online while you’re on public Wi-Fi.
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Use a strong password
If someone has the password to your account, they can log in, change the shipping address, and order things while you get stuck with the bill. Help keep your account safe by locking it with a strong password. Here are some tips on how:
  • Use a complex set of lowercase and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Avoid words that come from a dictionary.
  • Don’t use personal information that others can find or guess, such as birthdates, your kids’ names or your favorite color.
  • And don’t use the same password—however strong—on multiple accounts. A data breach at one company could give criminals access to your other, shared-password accounts.
Check out the webpage security
You’ve probably seen that small lock icon in the corner of your URL field. That lock signals you that the web page you’re on has privacy protection installed. It’s called a “secure sockets layer.” Plus, the URL will start with “https,” for “hyper text transfer protocol secure.” These websites mask and transfer data you share, typically on pages that ask for passwords or financial info. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” then the webpage isn’t secure. Because there is no privacy protection attached to these pages, we suggest you exercise caution before providing your credit card information over these sites.
Watch out for email scams
Sometimes something in your email in-box can stir your consumer cravings. For instance, it might be tempting to open an email that promises a “special offer.” But that offer could be special in a bad way. Clicking on emails from unknown senders and unrecognizable sellers could infect your computer with viruses and malware. It’s better to play it safe. Delete them, don’t click on any links, and don’t open any attachments from individuals or businesses you are unfamiliar with.
Don’t give out more information than you need to
Here’s a rule of thumb: No shopping website will ever need your Social Security number. If you’re asked for very personal details, call the customer service line and ask whether you can supply some other identifying information. Or just walk away.
Pay with a credit card
When using a credit card, you’ll usually get the best liability protection—online and offline. Here’s why. If someone racks up unauthorized charges on your credit card, federal regulations say you won’t have to pay while the card company investigates. Most major credit cards offer $0 liability for fraudulent purchases. Meanwhile, your liability for unauthorized charges on your debit card is capped at $50, if you report it within two business days. But if someone uses your account and you don't report the theft, after 60 days you may not be reimbursed at all.
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Try a virtual credit card
Some banks offer nifty tools that act like an online version of your card: a virtual credit card. The issuer will randomly generate a number that’s linked to your account, and you can use it anywhere online and choose when the number expires. It might be best to generate a new number every time you buy something online, or when you shop with a new retailer. Anyone who tries to use that number will be out of luck.
Check your statements regularly
Check your statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week, or set up account alerts. When you receive a text or email about a charge, you can check the message and likely easily recall whether you made the charge.
Mind the details
After you make the purchase, keep these items in a safe place: the receipt, order confirmation number and postal tracking number. If you have a problem with the order, this information will help the merchant resolve the problem.
Take action if you don’t get your stuff
Call the merchant and provide the details noted in Tip 13. If the merchant turns out to be fake, or they’re just plain unhelpful, then your credit card provider can help you sort out the problem. Often, they can remove the charge from your statement.
Report the company
If you suspect the business is bogus, notify your credit card company about the charge and close your account. File a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Tip: The FTC offers an identity theft recovery plan, should you need it.
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How do deal-of-the-day Web sites work?

Deal-of-the-day Web sites are dime a dozen these days. Group on started the trend in 2008, and consumers gobbled it up, making it a popular business model that many other start-ups jumped on. Even online behemoths like Amazon and EBay are offering their own daily deals. The typical daily deal works like this: You subscribe to the service and they send you daily e-mails with deals from companies, usually local and mostly manufacturers, restaurants and service based businesses. Many times, the deal is at least 50 percent off of the regular price, which makes it a great way to try a product or service at a greatly reduced rate. Deals stay active for anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the company.

As far as purchasing the deals, different sites have different rules. Some, such as Group on, set a minimum number of deals that have to be purchased in order for the deal to “tip,” or in other words, go through. If you purchase a deal that never tips, your card simply isn’t charged. Other deals will keep the deal active even if only two are purchased. Some set a maximum number of deals that can be purchased, so if it’s a popular deal and you don’t find it in time, it may be sold out. And all deals have an expiration date, so if you snooze, you lose. Deals also set a maximum number that you can buy — usually one for you and one as a gift, which means no 12 months of half off Pedi’s for you, unfortunately.

How to Spot Great Online Deals of the Day

Many daily deals are targeted to specific cities and their local businesses, so bigger cities usually have the choicest picks of daily deals. The best way to find great online deals of the day is to subscribe to the daily deal e-mails. This likely means a teeming inbox to sort through every morning, but if you’re a happy bargain hunter, then it’s worth the legwork. You can also save time by visiting Web sites like bing.com that gather deals from different companies in one place; think of it as an Expedia.com for daily deals. Also, many of the big daily deal companies have apps for your phone, which may be preferable to sorting through all of those e-mails. Keep a list of the sites you like to check and make it part of your morning routine. Time is of the essence for a lot of the great deals, so the early bird catches the worm. Meaning, if you see one that interests you, don’t delay your purchase. It used to be that most sites just offered a single deal of the day, but many sites are starting to offer multiple deals now, so be sure to scroll all the way down to see all of your options. You may even find it easier to view them directly on the daily deal Web site. If you’re new to the daily deal concept, ask friends in your area for their favorite sites and start with those.

How to Know When to Spend and When to Save

It’s a confusing time to be a consumer. The government, the media and every reliable financial indicator tell us that we are up to our necks in an unprecedented global economic crisis. And to make matters worse, they say it’s our fault.
The root cause of our current financial mess is a decade or more of runaway spending by governments, corporations and — yes — people like you. We bought homes we couldn’t afford. We maxed out credit cards we didn’t need. We buried ourselves under a mountain of personal debt without saving a penny for a rainy day, let alone the torrential downpour we currently face.
The result is that we’ve been seriously humbled. We no longer view the stock market as a risk-free investment. We no longer assume that home prices will continue to rise indefinitely. And we no longer treat saving money as a boring chore, like eating our vegetables.
Saving is, in fact, all the rage. Magazines and TV shows bombard us with money saving tips like sewing our own clothes, growing our own food and making our own toothpaste. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 86 percent of Americans have cut their spending or changed their saving and investment plans [source: Hopkins].
Just as Americans are shunning their consumerist ways and going into deep survival mode, the government is selling a competing message: “Spend! Spend! Spend!” It makes sense: Consumer spending in the U.S. accounts for around 70 percent of the country’s total economic activity [source: Crutsinger]. So when consumer spending drops, the economy grinds to a halt. Lower demand means lower production, which leads to mass layoffs, which equals a bad situation for just about everyone.
What, exactly, is a patriotic but poor citizen to do? If we spend money to bolster the economy, then we add to our pile of personal debt. If we bury jars of coins in the backyard, then we kick the chair out from under the economy.
Thankfully, this dilemma has a name: the paradox of thrift. Finding solutions, however, might be a little trickier. We’ll learn more about the paradox of thrift on the next page, then we’ll tackle some different “save or spend” scenarios.

The psychology of discounts

Discounts are something everybody uses, especially when you want people to buy a certain product. Discounts are everywhere, and you have probably noticed there are a lot of different ways to give that discount. In this article, we’ll go into the psychology of discounts and what kind of discounts work best for most people. But let me start by explaining why discounts work in the first place.

Why do discounts work?

Most discounts work on the principle of urgency, as the discounts are only available for a specific period of time. If people don’t buy the product now, at the discounted price, they’re likely to miss out on saving some money. There is urgency involved. That anticipation of missing out is exactly why discounts work.
According to the Pleasure Principle and the Regulatory Focus Theory people seek pleasure and avoid pain. The anticipation of missing out on a discount is definitely a pain people will want to avoid.

Different discounts

Some discounts actually do work better than others. For instance, people prefer to get 50% more of the same product for the same price than save 33% on the price, even though that comes down to exactly the same thing. Also, people like it better when you give them a 25% discount on top of a 20% discount, instead of a single 40% discount. And yes, again, this comes down to the exact same discount.
On top of that, discounts are regarded as relative. What I mean by this, is that a $10 discount on a $100 product will be regarded as much less than a $10 off a $20 product. The absolute discount is exactly the same, but the relative discount is much smaller in the first discount. So, if you give people a fixed $10 discount, don’t count on selling a lot of $100+ products.

A quick word on the ‘9’

Just adding a 9 at the end of your (discount) price isn’t always the best strategy. In the article mentioned in the previous paragraph, Karl explains that a price like 9.99 looks cheaper than 10. But that really goes for products that need to look cheaper, or simply are cheap. For luxury goods, the ‘cheap’ psychology of that price might backfire, as one of the unique buying reasons for a luxury product is quality and people are willing to pay for quality. A product that costs 399 looks ‘inferior’ to a similar product priced at 400. Just something to keep in mind.

Duration of the discount

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a lot of research or posts on the duration of promotions or discounts. Personally, I’d not leave a sale or promotion period running longer than a couple of weeks. If the period lasts longer than that, you’re risking negating the urgency principle.
Think about how long you’d want the discount to last. And make sure you communicate this clearly to your potential customers. If you have an actual salesforce it’s mentioned that a maximum of 6 weeks for a promotion is more than long enough. Apparently, employees can’t (or won’t) focus on promotion after 6 weeks. However, I think 6 weeks is pretty long, especially for online shops. That probably covers a number of holidays (a.k.a. sales opportunities), right?

Pros and cons to discounts

After all this information, I feel compelled to give you some pros and cons to discounts. The con I have to discounts is pretty simple: don’t overuse discounts. Our good friend Chris Lema is actually completely against them, saying discounts just don’t work. While we reserve a somewhat more moderate opinion for ourselves, we do completely understand where he’s coming from.
There’s a risk to (back-to-back) discounts. The risk that people get used to not paying full price in your store. That’s why I’m telling you to be careful with discounts. Don’t give away discounts too regularly or too often. Especially if you’re offering a single service or just a few products (as we do), discounts could backfire on your overall sales. Think about why you should give a discount on which product. And when.

15 Ways to Find the Best Deals Online

Online shopping from the comfort of your own couch is the best! Gone are the days where you have to wait in long lines and fight over the latest toy or gadget (thankfully). Now, with just a couple of clicks, you can find some of the best deals online.
Scoring a bargain is awesome, but it can be dangerous for your budget if you aren’t careful. More on that later, but first let’s walk through how you can get more bang for your buck with these 15 super simple shopping tips.

Use a Coupon Code

Make it a policy to never purchase anything online without first finding a coupon code to use. They’re out there! Do a simple Google search, download some coupon apps, or try websites that gather coupon information like jumpadeal.com. Search for a store and boom! You have a long list of coupon codes and discounts rated by other users.
With only a few minutes of effort, you can find some of the best deals online that could save at least 10–25% off your order. Your small effort can result in big savings!

Let Someone Else Bargain Hunt for You

This one is easy—, there are great sites out there that comb through the best deals online. Check out sites like jumpadeal.com—they’ll help you save. It may take some digging around, but you’re bound to score deals you might not find elsewhere.
A word to the wise here: Be careful to make sure the security information on the site shows you’re shopping on a secure URL (https) so you’re not giving away any personal information.

Shop on the Right Day

Keep an eye out for sales that drop on certain days of the week. Many stores roll out special discounts and deals on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And if you’re looking for a deal so you can fly the friendly skies, Sunday is typically the best day for purchasing airline tickets.
If you love the thrill of hunting down a good deal just a few times a year, be sure to mark your calendar for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday and even Amazon Prime Day. These online shopping days happen once a year. Sometimes they can be overhyped, but if they’re offering the items you’re looking for, you can walk away with a great deal. Just don’t get suckered into buying things you didn’t budget for.

Find Free Shipping

With all the online promos these days, it’s not worth it to pay high shipping prices—even if the online deal is spectacular (you’ll usually lose what you saved when you factor in the shipping cost—yikes).
If you’re willing to look around and be patient, you can buy just about anything online without paying for shipping. Many stores offer free shipping year-round on a minimum order amount, or they offer free shipping codes at random times throughout the year.

Outsmart Dynamic Pricing

Okay, what the heck is dynamic pricing anyway? It’s when retailers hike up the prices on online items based on your zip code, search history and whether you’re shopping on a mobile device or laptop. It stinks!
If you want to keep that kind of price gouging at bay, here’s what you need to do before you make an online purchase: Clear your browsing history and cookies, sign out of your social media sites, and switch to private browsing (sometimes it’s called incognito mode). Try this next time you’re looking for the best deals online and see if it saves you a little bit of cash!

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

If you know you’re going to spend money at a specific store, buying discounted gift cards can be a huge money saver. There are sites let users sell their unwanted gift cards at a reduced rate. If buying gift cards from random people online weirds you out, buy them at Costco instead! That’s right, even Costco is getting in on the action by selling discounted gift cards to restaurants, retail stores and spas.
So let’s say you already know you’re going to do all your back-to-school shopping at Old Navy or your Christmas shopping at Target. Why not buy a discounted gift card to the store? It could save you 10–15%!

Get Social

It pays to follow your favorite stores and brands on social media. Many brands will announce special flash sales for their social media followers, and some even offer free shipping codes. If you really love a certain shop or brand, follow them on social media and take advantage of being in the loop.
But tread carefully here. Sometimes, following your favorites on social media can tempt you with major impulse buys, so look out!

Track Price Drops and Sales

Did you know there are apps that track price drops for you? Jumpadeal.com has a constant presence on the web to find them. Better yet? They’ll alert you as soon as the price drops on an item you’ve got your eye on. You can even shop by the type of thing you’re looking for or shop by brand.

The Best Deals Online Need a Budget Too

You can score the best deals online until the cows come home, but if you aren’t intentional about budgeting that extra savings—what’s the point? Make sure you use free budgeting tools, to put all your savings to good use (and budget for the purchases you’re making). Get the tools you need to beat debt, save for the future, and reach your goals!

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