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Planning on shopping online? Here's what to keep in mind

It’s the busiest time of the year for online shopping, but what should you be aware of before you hit the ‘buy’ button?

Image: Tim Goode/PA Archive

WITH LESS THAN two weeks before the 25th arrives, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing and those who haven’t sorted everything out yet (we’re all looking at you enviously), you have two weekends to get what you need.

Many people will use this time to look online and scour for gift ideas, if not buy them directly, but if you are, here’s what you should keep in mind before you decide to purchase something.

Only shop on secure sites

No matter where you buy, or whether you use your smartphone or computer, always make sure you’re on an HTTPS site. The ‘S’ tells you that you’re on a secure connection, ensuring that any information that’s entered isn’t leaked out.

Also, it’s worth checking the security certificate to see if it’s up to date.

[image alt="Amazon sign in" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2014/12/amazon-sign-in-630x274.jpg" width="630" height="274" title="" class="alignnone" /end]

Make sure your phone and computer’s anti-virus services are up to date

Some phones don’t have malware protection and the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC) recommends that you check your firewall and antivirus settings are up to date before you start shopping. If you do end up on a site that

If you’re unsure of pricing, view through different devices

This really applies more to larger sites but if you feel like you’re getting different prices every time you check something, it’s probably best to check it through two or more devices to see if there’s any change. So your regular browser, incognito/private browsing and similar on your tablet or smartphone.

This really applies more to large sites that may use cookies to raise or lower prices, and if you do expect something is afoot, make sure you factored for other reasons before you suspect anything. Some sites provide discounts for those who have downloaded their app or are logged in so keep that in mind.

Compare prices between shops

This can be relatively time-consuming, but the joy of the web is you can compare and contrast different places to get the best price.

Sites or apps like PriceSpy can be useful in comparing online shops with bricks and mortar stores, although it’s always good to do your own research in case there are retailers that aren’t covered.

[image alt="Pricespy" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2014/12/pricespy-630x397.jpg" width="630" height="397" title="" class="alignnone" /end]

Always make sure who know who you’re buying from

An obvious one, but if something goes wrong, you want to make sure you can get in contact with them and they have an address. Other information that should be provided by the retailer includes description and price, delivery costs, details of any guarantees or after-sales services.

If you come across a deal that’s just too good to be true, chances are it is.

Use a credit card if possible

Since they’re designed to help prevent fraud, credit cards are the best way to buy something online and failing that, a disposable credit card.

While you can use a VISA or Mastercard debit card to pay for something (and it offers roughly the same protection as a credit card), it’s better if you don’t because if a hack occurs, it won’t be just your card that’s exposed but your account too.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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