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Online Shopping

Shopping on the Internet has never been easier or safer if you just follow a few simple safety rules. The vast majority of online vendors are reputable and secure. If you don't feel comfortable with a vendor, just take your business elsewhere. Also, you can shop whenever you feel like. Can't sleep? Where else could you have a cup of tea and shop in your pajamas?

Here's a few tips to help make your online shopping experience free of headaches:

  1. Do not visit shady looking web sites. You'll know them when you see them. Would you shop at "Uncle Bruno's Fell Off the Truck Discount House of Electronics"?
  2. Shop online from reputable companies only. It's safe to use your credit card to pay for purchases online at any store as long as when you check out, you see a little padlock to the left of the website address (See Figure I2-1).

    Figure I2-1

    This means that the transaction is secure. If you don't see this padlock - DO NOT CONTINUE WITH THE PURCHASE! The lock is not just a picture. Click on it to see details of the website's security. This is important because some fraudulent web sites will imitate the lock icon of your browser.
  3. It's also a good idea to use the same credit card for all of your online shopping. If there is ever a problem, all you have to do is cancel that one card.
    It is actually safer to shop online with a credit card than at a real store? Here's why: When you use your credit card at a secure site and you see the padlock to the left of the website address (See Figure I2-1), your credit card information is sent to the store using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In simple terms, this means your data is scrambled using really powerful encryption which is the process of hiding information to make it unreadable. Even hackers cannot break this encryption.

  4. Your web browser (Chrome, Firefox or Opera) makes comparison shopping simple. Use a different tab on your browser for each store. Then you can easily switch back and forth to compare similar items.
  5. Be aware of shipping charges. They can be different for every vendor. Very often, you can even find free shipping. The search for bargains is part of the fun!
  6. DO NOT GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, BANK ACCOUNT NUMBERS OR CREDIT CARD NUMBERS (unless you're making a secure purchase) ON THE INTERNET!!! Any web site or email asking you for this information is trying to rip you off!
  7. Always, always, always use a credit card only to pay for your purchases! Never allow transfers of funds from your checking or savings accounts.

What is eBay? Simply put, eBay is an electronic "flea market". eBay is a safe online marketplace where anyone can buy and sell goods and services. Sellers pay a small fee plus a percentage to eBay. Buyers can use eBay free of charge. There are rules and penalties in place to protect users from anyone who abuses the system.

Some facts about eBay:

  • eBay is international.
  • The variety and quantity of items is staggering. As of 2019 there are more than 1.3 billion listings on eBay and 182 million users.
  • Items can be sold at auction (buyers bid against each other), or at a fixed price also known as "Buy It Now". The sellers decide how they want to sell an item.
  • Buyers do not get to actually see the item prior to purchase, but there are several guarantees in place to protect the buyer.
  • eBay runs various computer programs to reduce electronic dishonesty.
  • There is a full time staff dedicated to promoting fairness and impartiality.
  • There is a system called "feedback" used to protect both buyers and sellers. Usually, the more dependable buyers and sellers will have more positive feedback than negative.
  • eBay partners with a professional payment service called PayPal in to ensure safe payment between parties. See my article on PayPal on this page for more information.
did you know?

A Safety Guide to eBay

  1. Always carefully read the details of the auction before placing a bid to make sure you know exactly what you're bidding on. Things to be aware of:
    • Payment method - always use a credit card
    • Shipping and handling costs. Some sellers deliberately list an expensive item for a cheap price to fool the new buyer. Overpriced shipping and handling charges is where they make up the difference. This trick is within eBay policy so read the ad completely and carefully.
    • When item will be shipped
    • Other fees or conditions
  2. For clothing, make sure to note the size, color, fabric, or damage especially if the item is "used" or "vintage".
  3. If there is anything you are not quite sure of, get more information from the eBay seller before you bid. You can do it by clicking "Ask seller a question".
  4. For a comprehensive list of what can, or cannot, be listed on eBay visit the "prohibited items" page. Remember, if the item is confiscated by customs, you are not entitled to a refund.
  5. Leave positive feedback whenever you are satisfied with the transaction. Always think hard before leaving negative feedback. Feedback is forever!
  6. Don't engage in bidding wars. Bidding wars are only good for the seller. New eBay users often get caught up in bidding wars because they have yet to learn when to keep bidding and when to stop. An experienced user will often outbid the novices by mere pennies a seconds before the auction closes. You need to show restraint and patience and bid near the end of the auction.
    • There is a legitimate trick calling "sniping". Sniping is the practice of bidding in the last few seconds of an auction in order to prevent other bidders from outbidding you. Many smart bidders simply bid the maximum amount they are willing to spend on an item and don't worry about it.
  7. Don't bid over your head. Bidding can become addictive. Be aware of how much money you can afford to spend on that special item.
  8. Most items have an option called "Buy It Now" where you can buy the item for a set price and avoid the bidding process. If you think the price is fair, then this will simplify the transaction.

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What is PayPal? PayPal is a popular payment service and is used for online purchasing. The majority of eBay purchases are paid by PayPal.

PayPal allows buyers to send money to sellers using their email addresses. The parties involved in the transaction NEVER see each other's credit card or bank information. PayPal acts as the middleman to hold the money. There are many safeguards and procedures that allow buyers and sellers to trust PayPal with their credit card and bank information. PayPal keeps that information secret. This way strangers can safely send money to each other through PayPal.

The only requirements for a PayPal account are a valid email address and a valid credit card or bank account. PayPal is free for buyers. Once a buyer sets up a PayPal account it costs nothing to send money to other PayPal users. The funds are withdrawn from the user's credit card or bank account. PayPal does not charge buyers to send money.

If you want to shop on eBay, it is useful to have a PayPal account although eBay will soon be offering a new, in-house payment service (see below).

did you know?

A Safety Guide to PayPal

  1. PayPal has designed its system so errors and fraud are kept to a bare minimum.
  2. PayPal guarantees 100% protection against unauthorized payments from your account. Every transaction is confirmed by email.
  3. eBay purchases can be insured up to $1,000 through PayPal.
  4. NEVER allow PayPal to transfer funds from your bank account as a method of payment. Even though the transaction itself is secure, if you have a problem with the purchased item it will be very difficult to get your bank to void the transaction. ALWAYS have PayPal use the credit card you signed up with as the method of payment. It is much easier to have your credit card company dispute a charge.
did you know?

Update on eBay and PayPal Payments

  1. EBay is replacing PayPal as its primary payment processing service.
  2. In 2018, eBay announced a deal with the payment service Adyen to become its primary payment service.
  3. PayPal will continue to remain a payments option for eBay buyers at least until 2023.
  4. The majority of its marketplace customers will be using the new partner by 2021.
  5. Read more about this development.

Online Photo Sharing

You can post your photos to several photo-sharing sites for free or for a small fee. Posting photos to the web is a good solution if you have many photos or want to share the same photos with many people. They also provide safe and secure storage of your precious photos. Most photo-sharing sites will automatically reduce large images.

Free vs. Paid Storage

Free services usually come with a restricted storage capacity. Only if you pay a subscription fee do you get to use the advanced features and greater storage sizes.

  • Dropbox is a simple cloud-based file storage service which is particularly good for photos. The free version offers 2GB of online storage.
  • Google Drive is a huge cloud storage service that enables you to store any file type and has a sliding pay scale depending on the services and the size of storage you want.
  • Google Photos will extract any images from your computer and you get 15GB of storage for free.
  • Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage is integrated into Windows 10 so it can be accessed like a physical hard drive. The photos section has many clever features. You can get 5GB of storage for free.

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