I will never, ever buy anything over the Internet! Have you ever said this? I have heard this statement from a number of people. The first question I ask them is; Why? When I ask them this question I get a range of answers but the most popular responses are: ‘I don’t know who I’m giving my information to, how can I trust them’, or ‘The internet is not secure enough’, or ‘There are thieves everywhere on the internet.’
Let go through a little scenario.
You take your family out for a nice supper at a local restaurant, and have an enjoyable meal. The waiter/waitress brings the bill, you check to make sure it right and then hand over your credit card, they walk away to process the transaction. The server brings you the bill and the slip, you sign the slip and hand it back, the server should check to make sure that your signature is correct and hands back your credit card. This sounds like a normal transaction that happens countless times everyday around the world.
Now let’s look at what really happened here. When you handed over your credit card to this individual you gave them a wealth of information whether you realize it or not. The server has now walked away with your card and an unscrupulous person might take advantage of this. The information available to them to copy at their leisure is your credit card account number, the expiration date, the security number on the back of the card and a copy of your signature. This is more than enough information for a thief to use to purchase goods on your card.
We don’t normally think about this because using our credit cards at the local restaurant or store is a normal part of life for most of us. We have a face and usually a name to the person that we are dealing with and that gives us a certain level of comfort, an perhaps instills a certain amount of trust in the individual and the business we are dealing with, but do we really know the person we are dealing with, in most cases probably not. So what we work on is the perception of trust.
Now this is a pessimistic scenario, most people are honest, and law abiding and the overall stats around credit theft in this manner is extremely low, so I don’t want to alarm anyone but instead wanted to use this example to make my point. Doing business over the internet can be no more risky than handing your credit card over to the complete stranger serving you in the restaurant.
So now let’s look to see what happens when you purchase goods on the Internet.
You surf to a site where you find something that you either really want or need. You go through the process to order the goods and come to the screen where the company is now asking you to enter your credit card number, this generally causes the customer to pause to contemplate whether or not taking the next step is the right thing to do. This is the right reaction, you are about to enter some sensitive information on a form where this information will be sent electronically over the internet to the company that you want to deal with. So to make you more comfortable in placing an order there are a few things that you should look out for.
Making your Shopping Experience Comfortable.
When dealing with the store down the street you know how to find them if there are any problems with the products you purchase. You have an address, a phone number and most likely the name of the person that you are dealing with, so if you have any problem you know where to go and who to talk to in order to get any issues resolved.
Since the business you are dealing with is online finding them shouldn’t be a problem, but the company should also provide other means of contacting them in case you have a problem with the product.
Check to see if they offer a phone number and hours of business. If you are at all uncomfortable with dealing with a particular company, call them, you may find that a simple phone call will set your mind at ease. Suddenly you have a name and voice to go with the company.
Look for a physical address, a street address is always more viable than just a PO box. Either way this gives you another method of communicating with the company, and if your issue could lead to legal action sending a registered letter to the offending party can be very useful.
If you have questions about how a company operates, call them or send and e-mail. You’ll be able get a sense about a company, in the way they respond and how prompt they are at responding at customer requests. If they don’t respond in a professional manner then perhaps you shouldn’t deal with them, or if it takes them a long time to respond to your request then you would have to wonder if this is the same service you would receive after the sale.
Technical Queues to Look for.
There are also other technical queues to look for as well. You are going to be sending sensitive personal and financial information over the internet so you have to make sure that the company that you’re dealing with is looking after your interests as well.
The web page where you enter your personal and financial information should be protected by encryption. The form of encryption is called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) this is the industry standard for making secure transactions over the internet.
To verify that your information will be encrypted you should look for a visual clue that the web browser makers have built into the browser. For Internet Explorer users a small pad lock will appear at lower right hand corner of the browser window. If you see this you know that your information is being protected. For Firefox users a key will appear at the bottom right hand side of the screen to indicate that the information entered on the web page will be encrypted.
Depending on where you are in the world there are two commonly used levels for SSL encryption, 40-bit or 128-bit encryption, 128-bit being the stronger of the two types of encryption. In North America the two browsers mentioned offer 128-bit encryption.
The latest versions of the most popular web browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox offer 128-bit encryption.
You can download the latest versions of these browsers from the following links.
Microsoft Internet Explorer:
Most companies doing business online also present a logo for the company that they use to provide the encryption, you might see logos like these. Insert logos for thawte and verisign . To make you more comfortable investigate these companies, the two mentioned here in this article are very well known and reputable sources for SSL encryption.
The link tells a story too.
When you surf to a web page that you believe to be secure or feel that should be secure you can also look at the link a the top of the page. The first charactersof the URL (Universal Resource Locator) determine what kind of information will be displayed on the screen. For example a normal web page will start with http://, this tells the web browser to expect a web page.
When a web page is supposed to be encrypted the URL will start with https://, the additional ‘s’ tells the browser that the information collected and sent from the this web page will be encrypted.
So http: //www.mystore.com/buyhere.html is not an encrypted web page where https: //www.mystore.com/buyhere.html is encrypted. Just because the URL starts with https doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for the visual clue at the bottom of your browser, look at them both.
Making Payments over the Internet.
When most people think of shopping online they assume that they will have to use their credit card to make purchases. This, in my experience, can make people very nervous, especially when dealing with a company that they are not familiar with.
There are a number of things that you can do to limit the risk even further when dealing with a company that you are not 100% familiar with.
So you don’t want to use your platinum credit card with the huge limit on it, because you don’t want to risk that much credit on an unfamiliar company. Your credit card vendor should be able to provide you with another card with a smaller limit, somewhere around the $500 to $1000 mark, something that you feel comfortable with. So even if by chance you run into someone who is out there to be malicious your risk has been reduced by not offering them a card number that will give them access to thousands of dollars.
Another increasingly popular way to make payments online is through a payment processing company, here you place the amount of money you need to make the purchase in an internet account with the payment company and then the payment company will in turn pay the vendor you are purchasing from.
This form of payment is secure for both the purchaser and the online business. The company you are purchasing from never sees your personal financial information and your financial information is only available to the payment company. This way you are not sharing your credit card information with a bunch of businesses you only have to deal with one. In addition you are reducing your risk not only because you are only sharing your financial information with one company, this companies main purpose is to provide these services, it is their livelihood they are in that business to make it work not only for themselves but also for their customers, which include both the businesses that sign up to use their services but also for the consumer. Additionally youdecide how much money to place in this account, so instead of potentially risking more than the purchase price you can simply put in exactly the amount required to make the purchase, you control it, it’s your account.
The downside to payment processing company is that not all online businesses are subscribers to their services. If you feel more comfortable making purchases over the internet in this manner call or write to the company that you want to deal with to see if perhaps this is an option. If enough people do it the company may decide to make it a payment option for their customers.
If you’re not comfortable with providing any financial information over the internet contact the company they might be able to provide you with COD service, or take your order over the phone. Call the company most will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.
I hope that this has helped you to understand some of the issues and clear up some of the misconceptions about making purchases over the internet. In review here are the few things that you should look for.
1. Does the company provide multiple ways to contact them if there is an issue?
2. Is your personal information going to be encrypted when it is sent to the company?
3. Does the business offer different payment options?
4. Are you comfortable with the company you are dealing with?
5. How quickly do they respond to customer requests?
Here are a few things to look for once you have purchased from the company.
1. A confirmation that the transaction has been processed should appear on the screen as well it should be delivered in the form of an e-mail. This information should be the same as a receipt and contain information indicating when the order was received, an invoice number, an indication of when the order will be shipped and contact information incase there is a problem with the order. I would suggesting printing the web page containing the transaction information and when the e-mail arrives print it as well, for your records of the purchase. This is just incase the e-mail gets delete by accident.
2. Once the order has been shipped, you should receive another e-mail indicating the tracking number and the web link you can use to track your package.
If there are any issues with shipping your order the company should be prompt in sending a message to let you know what the issues are and when you can expect to seeyour delivery arrive. The company should also give you the option to cancel the order and get a full refund. Shopping online is not to be feared, it is the next step in commerce. Much like the advent of the catalogue and making purchases over the phone, shopping over the internet is simply the next logical step. The catalogue is now electronic and has the capability to reach millions of potential buyers, and instead of calling in your order the consumer simply enters some information and presses a few buttons on the screen. The advent of SSL and other technologies to make commerce online safe and secure has pushed this new avenue for businesses further than ever expected and there is no end to the growth in site. Every day there are more and more vendors embracing the internet as a source to reach new markets and open the world to new products. Just as the internet has made the world a smaller place to live electronic commerce is bringing people closer to the products that otherwise would never have been available to them.
If you have any additional questions that this article has not addressed or would like some clarification on any of the points made here, please feel free to send an e-mail to [email protected], or visit www.new2technology.com we are here to help.
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