10 essential tips for better online shopping

Everything from fraud prevention to buying the right item size, these tips will help you make the most of your virtual shopping experience

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1. High security: Shop only at secure websites that you are familiar with. You can often find more information through buyer’s guides or consumer sites such as the Consumer Measures Committee. Research the company before you order and check for any signs of an insecure site such as prominent spelling errors, glitches or pop-ups.

2. Privacy protection: Read the privacy policies on the website and don’t share information that’s not essential — never give out your personal bank account information or your social insurance number. Prevent identity theft by safeguarding anything that’s not relevant to your purchase.

3. Ship shape: Don’t fall prey to excess shipping costs. First, not all sites will ship to your area, so check the shipping details on the site before setting your heart on an item. Charges are generally based on size, weight and speed of delivery. Many sites will provide free delivery based on how much you spend, so stock up to get the most out of your buy.

4. Done with duty: As Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” While taxes are unavoidable at times, you’ll want to keep them under consideration when budgeting how much you want to spend. Duty and taxes will depend on the type of item and its country of origin that it will be shipped from. Check out the Canada Border Services Agency office or the Border Information Service for more information.

5. Broken record: Make sure to print your confirmation page or save the information to your desktop. It should have a transaction number, shipping details and tax information. This allows you to track your shipment and date of arrival. Double-check it against any charges to your credit card.

6. Size matters: Try to buy from stores where you know your size. If you haven’t tried an item on at the retailer in person, grab a measuring tape and size yourself up against their buying chart. Also, look at different views of your outfit (if provided) to see what it looks like from the front and back. Some online stores (such as have catwalk videos to show the cut and fit of the garment more accurately.

7. Date line: If you have a big event coming up and you’re purchasing an item online, make sure to double-check delivery dates. For holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, some retailers will have a cut-off date for ordering and delivery guarantees. Always make sure to check the return policy — many retailers will make you foot the bill to mail back items.

8. Fraud-free: Be wary of any deals that sound too good to be true on sites such as Kijiji or Craigslist and never transfer money online before agreeing to a safe purchase agreement. Sites such as eBay have policies against fraudulent activity, so check the rating of your seller before purchasing and read other buyers’ comments. Report any issues to the site so they can shut down illegal sellers.

9. Buy on credit: The safest way to buy online is with your credit card. This ensures that your data is encrypted and likely protected as there’s usually liability insurance for unauthorized usage. Safeguard your password and look for a padlock in the bottom corner to ensure the safety of the website.

10. Price issue: If you’re shopping on foreign sites make sure to take the exchange rate conversions into account. If you’re able to convert the site to Canadian currency it’s a better bet than waiting to see what the bill will be for a UK or American priced retailer.