Be Careful When Shopping Online on Black Friday

The Internet has not only been a great source of entertainment for the past decade or more, it has also been a great information highway. There is endless information available to seekers about any topic under the sun. Along with this great information, businesses have learned Internet consumerism is also big business – often providing discounts for simply purchasing an item on their website. While shopping online has become a major convenience for millions, there are some safety hazards and other issues that can occur, especially on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. To avoid some of the biggest issues you can encounter on this big day, I want to provide you with some tips to help you carefully shop online.Avoid Identity TheftIdentity theft is a huge issue to have to deal with at any point in the year, and it is no better on Black Friday. You can have your identity stolen in a variety of ways, from people ravaging through your garbage to people hacking into your computer. But Internet transactions are now the most common way to give your personal information away to a thief because you never know who you’re giving your credit card number to on the other side of the computer.Many people are attached by identity theft through spam or “phishing” emails. Often times, these emails come from people posing as legitimate companies. When you click on a link they’ve provided in an email, they will take you to a duplicate site that will ask for your personal credit card information, or even social security number. Before you know it, your identity is stolen, and that is the last thing you need to deal with on Black Friday, or during the holiday season in general.One way to help you avoid identity theft is by educating yourself on the sophisticated schemes of today. Secure websites that won’t divulge your information all have a small lock on the lower right-hand portion of their website. PayPal has one of these locks and also offers a great identity theft quiz on their website that helps you to recognize scam or “phishing” emails. They also offer an identity theft guide with great tips to help you avoid giving your information to thieves.Watch Out for Negative Option ScamsNegative option scams are not unfamiliar to those who have experience shopping online. I have been an avid online shopper for many years and every time I pull out my credit card I am aware of the potential threats, and especially this particular scam that includes offering a potential customer a lot of freebies. The freebies sound good at first, but as you click through the various screens, answering questions, you realize that you are now being asked for credit card information along with your shipping address. Now, being an experienced online shopper, this is be point where I “about face.” But if you are not as familiar, you may think this is a harmless security check – that is, until you find charges on your credit card for products or services you didn’t realize you’d ordered.A great rule of thumb when shopping online on Black Friday, or any other day, is that you only enter your credit card number for items you know you’ve agreed to purchase – and when the price is EXACTLY the same as the amount you’ve added up. Also, check for reviews about the site to see if other customers have been scam. Always do your homework. This will save you a lot of grief and potential money loss later down the line.Be Prepared for Possible Delivery DelaysThis would normally not be a problem for the average shopper who has taken into consideration that ordering online can result in delivery delays. But on Black Friday, you must take into account that not only are you shopping online, which takes longer, but mail will become overwhelmed as it does every year at this time. It is important to check with the retailer you are buying from to make sure that your item has “guaranteed delivery” through FEDEX, the Post Office or UPS. Also, be sure to communicate with the retailer, before making the purchase if possible, so that you both are on the same page in regards to the time frame that you need your item. You can also take advantage of a delivery option that will allow you to send an item directly to your recipient. The company may even be able to gift wrap the present for you before sending it to assure that it reaches them appropriately.Also, remember that often times, when ordering online, the retailer may not be keeping track of their items the same way they do when an item is sitting in their store. In the store on hectic Black Friday, when an item is not sitting on the shelf, that means it is gone. Sometimes a representative can go search in the back, but most likely, if it is not in front of your eyes, it is not available. However, when you order online, you have to trust the retailer to not only ship your item to you on time, but to also correctly inform you of availability.There have been many times that I’ve ordered an item, only to find out weeks later that it is no longer in stock. The problem is if you’re ordering on Black Friday, you don’t have that many weeks to wait around – especially if the money you were planning to spend is now stuck in Internet limbo. This is why it is important to do plenty of research and communicate directly with your online retailer before handing over that credit card information. Some purchases may be more difficult to take back than others.If you keep these handy tips in mind when making your Internet purchases on Black Friday, you should have no problem making smooth transactions throughout the day. Just remember, if things seem too complicated or seedy, you can always join the hectic race of traditional Black Friday shopping, minus the Internet. Though it can be a rat-race, it is usually guaranteed to be the safest option.