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Best Practices for Shopping Online

Publication Number: P2927
View as PDF: P2927.pdf

Online shopping has become increasingly popular in recent years. Online shopping offers many benefits, such as convenience and a wide selection of products to choose from. Shopping online has many advantages and benefits, but also presents a variety of risks such as issues with privacy and security. Online criminals are always looking for ways to steal personal and financial information from unsuspecting shoppers. It is essential to be aware of the risks and take appropriate measures to ensure a secure online shopping experience.

The convenience of online shopping is a major draw for consumers. They can shop 24/7 online, and there aren’t endless lines to stand in. Consumers can save in many ways by shopping online, like travel time, travel costs and shoppers are able to compare product pricing.

Safe Online Shopping

Online shopping offers many benefits, such as a wider selection of products and the convenience of purchasing products without having to be concerned about a particular time or location. When shopping online it is important to know the risks and take the necessary precautions to stay safe online.

Online shoppers want to have assurance that the site is secure, and their private information is safeguarded.

There are security measures that consumers should consider when entering the virtual door. Be sure you are shopping with a reputable retailer. Secure websites should be accessed when making purchases online. Characteristics of safe websites include:

  • Website address: Look for “https://” at the beginning of the URL, where the ‘s’ signifies a secure connection using SSL encryption.
  • Padlock symbol: A padlock icon next to the website address indicates a secure website.
  • Address bar: A green address bar in web browsers denotes a secure site, while red signifies an unsafe one.

A reliable retailer should provide clear information about purchase confirmation and steps to take if issues arise, such as delayed deliveries or damaged items. Protect your online accounts with robust, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor authentication is a security feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your online accounts. It requires two types of authentication factors to verify your identity before granting access to your account. The first factor is usually your username and password, and the second factor is typically a code or password that is sent to your phone, an app, or an email address. With two-factor authentication, even if a hacker obtains your password, they will not be able to access your account without the second factor. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access to your account and helps protect your personal and financial information. Enabling two-factor authentication is an effective way to protect your online accounts. Many websites and apps, including social media, email, and online banking have this feature available to its users.

When making purchases online, you may consider using a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit cards typically offer more robust fraud protection and are easier to dispute in case of issues with your purchase. Keep records of your online transactions, including tracking/order numbers and confirmation emails.

Our email inboxes are continuously flooded with emails that contain links to redirect you to a site that may contain a virus. If you receive an email that asks for private information, such as a credit card number or a checking account number, you should not respond or provide any information. Avoid clicking links or providing personal information in unsolicited emails. If you’re uncertain about an email’s legitimacy, it’s best to delete it without clicking any links.

When making online purchases a credit card may be a better option versus a debit card. Credit cards many times offer more fraud protection and can be disputed if there is a problem with the purchase. Keeping records of your online purchases, such as tracking/order numbers and confirmation emails is important to have in case you need to dispute a charge or return an item.

When starting your online shopping journey, use well-known websites rather than relying on search engine results. Avoid providing unnecessary personal information such as your social security number.

Safe online shopping requires taking the necessary precautions to protect your personal and financial information. Taking precautions like shopping on reputable websites, using strong passwords, and 2FA can minimize the risk of falling prey to cybercrime. With these safety measures in place, you can enjoy the many benefits of online shopping!

Shopping on a Mobile Device

The landscape of online shopping is constantly changing. The world of online shopping is ever-evolving, with mobile devices becoming one of the most popular avenues for making online purchases.

When shopping online using your mobile device, keep security in mind. Credit cards typically offer better protection against fraudulent charges than debit cards, even though debit cards might seem more appealing due to the absence of APR fees. Alternatively, consider using an online payment service like PayPal, which employs advanced technology to securely store and transmit your banking information.

After completing your online transaction through your mobile device, don’t rely solely on the merchant to email your receipt or for the site to save the transaction in your purchase history. If the option to save the payment confirmation isn’t available, take a screenshot and email it to yourself.

Keeping your browser updated with the latest software is important. Regularly update your mobile browser to benefit from the latest security features that protect against malware. Staying up-to-date helps ensure a safer online shopping experience. Many prominent retailers, such as Amazon and eBay, have developed mobile apps that enable users to compare prices, read reviews, and find the best deals with just a few swipes. These apps offer a convenient and time-saving approach to online shopping.

With the right precautions and tools in place, shopping on a mobile device can be a secure and convenient experience. By selecting appropriate payment methods, saving purchase confirmations, updating your browser, and using retail apps, you can enjoy a smooth and safe mobile shopping experience.

Social Shopping

The online shopping landscape is no longer dominated solely by big-name retailers. Small businesses are carving out their space in the digital marketplace, leveraging popular social media platforms like Facebook Instagram, and Twitter. These platforms enable users to discover new products, share recommendations, and make purchases based on their social connections. Let’s explore how these social media sites are reshaping the shopping experience.

Facebook is popular for promoting products and online transactions. As users share and discuss their favorite products and services, they influence the purchasing decisions of their virtual friends, making it a powerful tool for small businesses to gain visibility and drive sales.

Twitter offers a unique advertising opportunity through Twitter Offers, which allows businesses to promote virtual coupons within their tweets. These offers are directly loaded onto consumers’ credit or debit cards and applied automatically at the time of purchase, providing a seamless shopping experience.

Instagram is quickly gaining traction in the world of online shopping. As a platform centered around images and videos, it allows businesses to showcase their products visually, while followers can make purchases by providing their PayPal email addresses. This visually driven shopping experience appeals to users’ natural inclination to let their eyes guide their choices.

As technology continues to advance and mobile shopping becomes even more accessible, social media shopping is poised to grow in popularity. By embracing social shopping, small businesses can tap into the power of social media platforms and offer customers a more personalized and engaging shopping experience.


Public Wi-Fi has become increasingly common, offering a convenient way to access the internet when away from home. However, these networks often lack encryption, posing security risks for your personal information. Here are some tips to protect your data while using public Wi-Fi when shopping online.

Whenever possible, rely on your 3G/4G mobile network instead of public Wi-Fi to minimize the risk of exposing your personal information to hackers. If you must use public Wi-Fi, equip your device with a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your data and protect your privacy.

Avoid staying signed into your accounts and remember to log out after each use to prevent unauthorized access. Just as you would on a laptop or PC, ensure that mobile sites have SSL encryption, which is indicated by a padlock symbol and “https://” in the address bar. In public spaces with available Wi-Fi, disable your device’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to prevent accidentally connecting to potentially malicious networks.

Online shopping offers convenience and affordability, but it also comes with risks. By taking precautions like using a secure mobile network, employing a

VPN, and disabling Wi-Fi in public places, you can enjoy the benefits of online shopping while protecting your personal information. Remember to “Stop. Think. Connect.” by being proactive with your security measures and considering the consequences of your online actions. With these safety practices in place, you can shop online with peace of mind.

Future of Online Shopping

While online shopping was once thought of as the future of shopping, it is now a reality. The current state of the online shopping world is just the tip of the iceberg, with new possibilities continually emerging. Today, we purchase various items like clothes, toys, electronics, and housewares, but the scope of online shopping is expanding even further.

The future of online shopping promises to be ever-evolving and dynamic, with new possibilities constantly emerging. As technology advances and businesses find innovative ways to deliver products and services, the online shopping experience will continue to expand and improve, catering to the diverse needs of consumers around the world


Assarut, R. 2015. Consumption values, personal characteristics, and behavioral intentions in mobile shopping adoption. Trziste / Market, 27(1), 21–41.

Bloch, P. H., & Richens, M. L. 1983. Shopping without purchase: An investigation of consumer browsing behavior. Advances in Consumer Research, 10, 389–393.

U.S. Federal Trade Commission. 2003. Holiday shopping online?: FTC offers tips to help consumers decide how to wrap up a good buy.

U.S. Federal Trade Commission. 2011. Nine online shopping tips.

The information given here is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products, trade names, or suppliers are made with the understanding that no endorsement is implied and that no discrimination against other products or suppliers is intended.

Publication 2927 (POD-08-23)

By Jamie Varner, PhD, Extension Instructor, Extension Center for Technology Outreach.

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