How to buy online – Part I: safety tips and tricks

Both me and my sister have been avid internet users for about 15 years – or maybe even a bit more. We had computers in the house all our lives – my parents are journalists and own two newspapers – and all that we’ve learned, we’ve learned by trial and error and with each other’s experience.

I’ve never had one class in computer science or online navigation or anything like that so, what I will be sharing with you today and over the next couple of days is based on this 15-yr experience.

Ever since we got an internet connection and we were able to start buying things online, we realized there were a lot of opportunities there. Portugal always had high prices on everything that had to be imported, so we immediately loved websites like eBay or Amazon. But, for a newbie without any experience of buying things online, it can get really easy to fall into tricks and loose money.

Here are my tips for a safe online purchase.

1. If you never shopped online, educate yourself first.
This is really important. It’s not always as simple as it looks. A lot of sellers, specially in auctions, tend to beautify their auctions so they look like an amazing opportunity and it ends up being a fraud like sale.
If you don’t want to spend a long time reading articles about online safety, at least ask someone you know that has experience. You should know which signs to look for to make sure it will be a safe transaction.

2. Browse for reviews of the website if you never heard of it before.
Really easily, you can just Google the name of the website for reviews and posts on what people that used that website before think. Today is easier than some years ago: if people have a bad experience with the website, they’ll probably be writing about that online.

3. Regarding payment, Paypal is the safest way to pay.
This is not sponsored at all. I’m just picky with the way I share my credit card information and I know Paypal works. Most of the online stores right now offer Paypal checkout so, it is the better choice. You can always be aware if the website has a secure connection when it comes to entering the credit card information, but, using Paypal, you are 100% sure it is safe. You can go to their website and read more about it. They work as a mediator between you and the online store, so you don’t need to enter the credit card information, you just need to authorize the payment through your Paypal account.

4. Make sure your country doesn’t have high taxes on imports.
Portugal probably has the highest taxes right now. If you buy something from outside the European Union, you will be taxed 23% just to get your package. Well, at least that’s what the law says. So far, I’ve seen this applied only to packages coming from the US, even if they are marked as personal (example: my Christmas gifts sent from my sister).
This is really important, specially if you’re looking for bargains. It may be a bargain on the website, but if you’re paying a tax over it just to get it inside your country, it may not be worth it.
For the Portuguese readers: it is safe to buy from EU but also from some other countries like Australia, China and Japan. At least these I have never had any problems with extra taxing.

5. If you’re buying in a different currency, always convert it to your native currency.
If you’re not used to converting values, just go to Google and put the amount on the search bar (i.e. $5.95 to euro) and it will instantly convert it to the current rate, so you can compare it to other prices.
When you’re buying in a different currency, it may look like a good deal, but it’s not always like that when you convert it.

6. Special tips for auction-based websites (like eBay)
I’ve been a eBay user for more than 10 years now and I’ve learned a couple of things.
– if the auction is free shipping, make sure it’s free for your country. Also, it may have a higher base price, just to compensate the free shipping.
– if the auction (or Buy It Now) has a really low price like $0.01 or if you think it’s really low for the product you’re watching, be sure to check for the shipping prices – they may be higher than needed, to compensate the price of the product.
– make sure the seller has a good positive feedback score. To see that, you just need to click on the name of the seller and you’ll be redirected to a page with the info just like on the photo. What you’re looking for is at least a positive feedback of 85%. I don’t buy ANYTHING to a seller with positive feedback under 85%. With the amount of sellers out there, there’s no need to risk it.

– most of the websites like eBay have a pretty good buyer protection. Read about it on the FAQ part of the website. You may need to use it and you will need to know what you can do.

7. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
This is a tip that could be applied to every field of our lives, and it fits perfectly here. If you’re thinking that the seller is giving you a huge advantage or if you think the price is way too low for the average price you found online, you need to be very careful before committing to buy or giving any further payment info. There are people out there every day putting up auctions just to scam innocent buyers.

If you have these 7 tips and tricks on your mind every time you go online shopping, in no time you’ll be a pro! Be safe!

On my next post, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to save the most money while buying online.

See you tomorrow!


Sofia @ Something on Everything

I'm a 32 year old Portuguese Psychomotricist / Early Intervention Specialist that loves to write about everything! Here you'll find a lot of different and great topics, but lately I've been loving to write about Food, Fitness and DIY! Hope you enjoy it and follow me on a journey to a better self! Aside from the social media links on the top of the page, you can also connect with Sofia Linha on:Google+