People are surfing the Internet in growing numbers -- for information, communication, entertainment and shopping. The World Wide Web offers a wide range of exciting opportunities. But you should remember to take the same type of precautions as you do when you shop and communicate in the offline world. Before you decide to enter personal information on a website, or make a purchase online, here are a few tips to remember:
Deal with companies you know by reputation or experience. If you aren't familiar with the company, do your research. Find out where they are based, and what their policies are on issues such as privacy and security. Do not do business with a company that doesn't list a physical address or telephone number on its website. When dealing with international vendors the risk is higher. Different laws and standards apply and it may be difficult to get local authorities to act on your complaint if you feel a vendor has dealt you with unfairly.
Know exactly what you are buying. When shopping in a retail store you have the added benefit of handling the product and seeing the person who is providing the service - benefits that are not available when shopping online. Look for a vendor that provides enough information for you to properly evaluate what you are buying, including details such as the size, colour, weight and texture of the product.
Know what you are paying. The final price for online items is often considerably different from the listed price. Any reputable vendor's website will calculate the shipping and handling costs for you before you make a final decision to purchase an item.
Before agreeing to a purchase, do the math and figure out what the price will be in Canadian dollars. Most people fail to accurately convert the value of currencies and they end up paying more than they hoped as a result.
Additionally, Canada Customs will calculate and add GST to the cost of most purchases made outside Canada. The agency will also charge you an inspection fee for doing so that may be more than the actual GST on small purchases, such as books and compact discs.
Make sure transactions are secure. Do not enter any financial information if you see a broken-key or open padlock symbol on your Internet browser. This means that the transaction is not secure and could be intercepted by a third party. When the key is complete or the padlock is locked, your browser is indicating a secure transaction. Remember, unlike secure order forms on a website, e-mail messages are not private. Do not send confidential information by e-mail.
Read the fine print before you buy. Make sure you understand all contractual information presented online before agreeing to purchase, including the policy on fulfillment, returns, warranties, etc.
Talk to your children about online activities. Instruct them to keep their personal information private unless you say it's ok.