In the middle of a major sewing project, my sewing machine’s light bulb went out. To you non-sewers, this might not sound like a big deal, but it is when you need that light to continue. I have a 40-year-plus-old Singer machine, so finding the correct bulb could have been a challenge. Fortunately, I drove a couple of miles down the road to a fabric store that carried the correct bulb and was back to work in an hour. Had I ordered one online I would have waited days to continue my project.

Living close to all of the major department stores as well as quaint boutiques offers a lot of shopping opportunities. Most of us enjoy a leisure day at the mall where we can see and touch items before purchasing. My guess is that there are fewer returns when we shop this way because it is clearer as to what we are getting. And if we don’t want our local shops to close, we need to frequent them and make purchases there so they can afford to remain open.

However, there is no doubt that online shopping has its perks. The ease and simplicity of shopping on tablets and smart phones is fun in a different way than in person. We can compare prices across a wider variety of items while comfortably in our jammies, if we so wish, avoiding crowds and saving gas and taxes. We also have those online reviews to help us make the best choices.

But those benefits don’t come without precautions. Here are a few steps to keep the experience safe and prevent costing us more than the price of our purchase:

  • Use familiar websites.
  • Look for the lock. That little icon of a locked padlock indicates a SSL(secure sockets layer) encryption.
  • Check the address. Secure sites start with HTTPS:// (not HTTP://)
  • Never email credit card information.
  • Never give your social security number.
  • Check your credit card statements throughout the month.
  • Keep your computer security up-to-date.
  • Never turn off your firewall.
  • Encrypt your home wireless connection.
  • Use strong passwords. Microsoft recommends 14 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use different passwords.
  • Don’t put an unknown flash or thumb drive into your computer.
  • Hold down the SHIFT key when you insert a drive into your computer.
  • Think carefully before opening attachments or suspicious emails such as ones that say they are from ATT or Yahoo and instruct you to click to update but do not address you by name.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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