Cents and Sensibility

Take care shopping online

Staff WriterNovember 29, 2009 

Apparently many people are limbering their fingers and flexing their wrists in anticipation of Cyber Monday, the day almost everyone goes online to shop rather than work.

I'm not a fan of online shopping. I prefer to shop locally, and I like to keep the credit card on ice; neither of which are really possible when pointing and clicking. If, however, you can't resist the deals, heed these suggestions from the National Consumers League and the Better Business Bureau:

Make sure the site is secure before you pay. The URL address should say https rather than http, and look for a padlock icon.

Know who you're shopping with. Sticking with nationally known retailers is a safe bet. Other wise, write down the physical address and phone number of the retailer. Check with the BBB to see if there are complaints against the business.

Do not shop from an unencrypted wireless network.

A credit card offers more protection than a debit card.

Turn your computer off after shopping to avoid having software installed on your machine that can allow scammers to remotely use your computer. I do not know how they do it, but I've been assured that they can.

Look for signs that a Web site is not legit, such as prices that are well below what you've seen in stores or an abundance of spelling errors.

Avoid sites that accept only wireless payments, such as through Western Union.

To make the most of your money, look for coupon codes before you shop. One site is www.retailmenot.com . Or consider GoodShop .com . It's an online mall whose stores include Gap ,Crate & Barrel, and Apple. Each store donates a percentage of what you spend to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Cary reader Winston Hooker recently wrote to suggest that the paper remind people that it doesn't take much to help those in need this season. Each year, he makes a trip to the grocery store for the ingredients of a holiday meal and delivers it to the Salvation Army on Christmas Eve. "This way, I know at least one family will have an entire Christmas meal. I just can't eat mine unless I know that I helped someone get theirs," he writes.

With those words ringing in my ears, I made trips to two area Angel Trees last week. Leaving one, I overheard someone commenting that the wishes seemed a bit extravagant. Indeed, among the requests for sweaters and shirts, dolls and transformers, were Wiis, bikes and Xboxes. I see nothing wrong with that. Children dream big at Christmas. If you're of a certain age (as I am) I imagine you once circled quite a few items on the pages of the Sears Wish Book.

When you visit an Angel Tree this year - and I hope you will - remember the toys as well as the clothes. One warms thebody, the other the heart.

mary.cornatzer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4755

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