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Online shopping is easy and convenient, but make sure it's safe, too By Keishon Thomas

With Christmas coming at lightning speed, the majority of us will be searching for gifts for our loved ones. The coming days will be a fury of purchasing and wrapping gifts to put under the tree. If you are like me, you will also pursue deals.

One of the best days to pursue those deals was Cyber Monday, when retailers encouraged online shopping by offering great deals. According to DealNews, Cyber Monday sales totaled $3.45 billion in 2016. If the amount of sales is any indication, it’s here to stay.

No matter what day you shop online, be safe and snag the perfect gift by following these tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Deal with reputable sites. When shopping online, you have to enter sensitive information like your credit card information, expiration date and security code. While no system is 100 percent safe, it is safer to use sites that are reputable and have been around for a while.

Review your purchase before submitting. Because you will be pointing and clicking, make sure the price, quantity and description are correct. The price at checkout may differ from the price quoted on the website or you may have inadvertently increased the quantity of an item. Reviewing your virtual shopping cart can help to catch discrepancies prior to purchasing.

Read the product description. Pay close attention to the size and dimension of items. While there are great deals out there, there is a stark difference between a miniature Barcalounger and a full-size one. (Please don’t ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.) Also, read the reviews. If everyone that purchased that item gave it a horrible review, you may want to reconsider or find another brand.

Know the return policy. Occasionally, we buy items that aren’t exactly what we expected. Returning items is a hassle in general. Returning items purchased online can be a nightmare. Most often, you will have to mail the item back to the retailer within a specified timeframe. Make sure you adhere to the timeframe or you could be stuck with something you don’t want.

Make sure someone is there to retrieve the package. Unfortunately, not everyone is warm, fuzzy and honest. Some unscrupulous people realize it is shopping season. Delivered packages left in open areas are gold mines for these people. Have items shipped to your office or to a retired family member or friend. This can also help to keep the big gift you purchased for your spouse — and the little present you purchased for yourself — a secret. Smile.

Keep track of your budget. Because there will be so many great deals online, it can be tempting to click away. Make sure you keep track of your spending. Christmas lasts just one day. Ensure that you can live comfortably after the holidays.

(Keishon Thomas is the University of Georgia Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Bibb County.)

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Keep online shopping safe by dealing with reputable sites, reading the product description carefully and knowing the return policy.

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Keep online shopping safe by dealing with reputable sites, reading the product description carefully and knowing the return policy. Download Image
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