In the time of COVID, lots more people are shopping online for their needs rather than going to a store, and even if you do shop in person, there are limits to the availability of fitting rooms and returns might be impossible.
If you’re staying inside but still find yourself in need of new clothes, this post courtesy of guest author Jenny Bloom from ShirtMax will help give you tips on how to do so safely in an age of scams, fraud, and identity theft.
With more than 79% of Americans now doing at least some of their shopping on the Web, it’s become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of online shoppers. Online shopping is fast, convenient and allows consumers to purchase just about anything without needing to brave large crowds or travel to other cities to find what they are looking for.
While most online transactions take place without any problems, people still fall victim to cybercriminals every day. Whether they are taken in by scams designed to steal their personal information or they are sold products that do not match their descriptions, shoppers can fall victim to numerous things when shopping for clothing on the Web.
Buying clothes online is appealing for numerous reasons. Whether you’re shopping for blank t-shirts, pants, shoes or accessories, the Internet boasts more selection than your local mall could ever dream of carrying, and the prices are often substantially lower than the prices found in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It’s important to be aware of the darker side of e-commerce, though, and make yourself aware of how to avoid scams and returns. Here are a few dos and don’ts of online clothing shopping to help you stay safe on the Web.
DO: Shop from Home
It may be convenient to do some online shopping at your local coffee shop on your lunch break, but doing so makes you much more vulnerable to hackers. Even novice hackers can easily access public Wi-Fi connections and see everything you enter online – including your credit card number.
It’s fine to browse your favorite shopping sites while you’re at the airport, a coffee shop, a hotel or another public place with a Wi-Fi connection, but avoid entering any personal information until you are on your own secured network.
DO: Be Careful When Choosing Sellers
If you use Google (or another search engine) to search for products, be careful. Statistically, about three results on every search engine results page are fraudulent. Whenever possible, shop directly from a well-known retailer or directly from the manufacturer or brand you’re shopping for. If you are trying to find the best price, use a trusted price-comparison site.
Before entering any personal information on a website, take a look at the address bar at the top of your browser. The URL should always start with https://. If there is no “s,” it means that your information will not be transmitted privately once you submit it. Also, make sure any website you shop from has an SSL certificate.
DO: Shop Using Credit Cards
Generally speaking, credit card companies offer better protection against online scams. Whether you receive a product that does not match the description or you have your information stolen, they will normally work with you to help you recoup your losses when the seller refuses to cooperate. Using your debit card means that a criminal could gain access to everything in your bank account, and depending on your financial
institution’s policies, there may be little you can do if you fall victim to a scam.
Editor’s note: If you don’t use credit cards, double check your bank’s policies to make sure your debit card offers purchase protection. Shopping via PayPal Goods & Services also provides buyer protections.
DO: Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card Bills
Pay attention to your credit card bill every month. Make sure only transactions you’ve authorized appear on your statement and watch out for recurring charges. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your credit card company immediately, as there are usually time limits for disputing charges. Also, make sure you’re only shopping within your budget and paying it off every month so as not to carry a balance.
DON’T: Use Your Personal or Business Email Address When Shopping
Having a separate email address to use for online shopping is highly recommended. In addition to keeping all those promotional emails out of your business or personal email account, you’ll be a lot better off if this email address gets hacked than if one of your main addresses does. Set up a separate account that is easy to access, and keep track of the orders you’ve placed, when they’ve been shipped, and when they arrive. Hang onto order confirmations until you’ve received your item and you are happy with it.
DON’T: Wire Money to Sellers
If a seller is asking you to pay by Western Union or a similar money transfer service, it is almost always a scam. Even if you order from an online auction site, you should only pay online using a credit card or a protected service like PayPal. If you wire a payment to someone, you have no way of getting your money back in the event of a problem.
DON’T: Provide Excess Information
When you place an order online, you should expect to provide your name, billing address, mailing address, phone number, email address, and credit card information. If the site is asking for anything else – such as your social security number or your driver’s license number – it’s likely fraudulent. There is no reason why you should need to provide this type of sensitive information when shopping online for clothes.
DO: Shop Eco-Friendly
Unfortunately, shopping in general isn’t the most conscientious thing we do. Products are
typically kept in plastic, fast fashion is bad for the planet, and mass-produced boxes aren’t always properly recycled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help lessen the overall carbon footprint. Shop from secondhand consignment shops, like ThredUp, to help save the planet. Plus, you’ll normally find a sweet deal and save a couple bucks.
DON’T: Fall Victim to Scams
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you stumble on a website selling designer clothes in the latest styles at a fraction of their normal
price, it’s extremely tempting to load up your cart and submit your credit card information. Chances are, though, the deal isn’t as good as it seems. Entering
your credit card information may do little more than fund a scam artist’s next shopping spree. Or you may find out when your order arrives that you purchased
counterfeit clothing or accessories.
Scoring great deals is one of the best parts about shopping online, but when looking at prices, be realistic. If the price seems too good, it’s probably a scam in one way or another. When you’re shopping for products in bulk such as wholesale shirts, you can expect to pay significantly less than you would pay when shopping retail. Avoid scams by only ordering from established wholesalers with strong reputations for quality and customer service.
With more and more people turning to the Web to shop for clothing and other products every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to be vigilant. There are a lot of people out there who make their living by stealing from others, and they love targeting unsuspecting online shoppers. Exercising caution when ordering online, however, can help you avoid returns and scams while protecting your bank account and personal information from cybercriminals.
About the Author
Jenny Bloom is the Marketing Manager for ShirtMax. When she’s not spending time with her three daughters, husband and two dogs, Roscoe and Boone, she’s creating content on fashion, online shopping and saving money on clothes.