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8 precautions to take when shopping online

Clothing, beauty products, technology and even grocery shopping. Nowadays, it is possible to buy everything through a computer or smartphone. However, in online shopping, care to be taken must be redoubled so as not to lose out on the deal.

Consumers of online stores should be careful, above all, with regard to the credibility of the entity from which the purchase is made and the security of the information they disclose.

Websites selling products and services online are supposed to clearly display the different forms of payment, the conditions under the right of withdrawal and information on how to proceed with refunds and exchanges. If you cannot find this information, look for another page that meets these requirements.

So that you don’t miss anything, we’ve listed the 8 main precautions to take when shopping online.

Online shopping: 8 precautions to take


Use secure networks to access the internet

When shopping online, whatever device you use to access the internet, it is important to be careful always connect to a secure network🇧🇷 Public Wi-Fi access points, such as those in shopping centres, restaurants, hotels or public transport, should therefore be avoided.

If you make a payment through one of these public networks, you may be giving access to your bank accounts and allowing other people to control your computer or mobile phone, without you realizing it.

If you can’t use mobile data, then wait until you get home and use your private landline to shop safely.

Equally important is to ensure that your device has an up-to-date operating system and antivirus program and that the firewall is activated.


Find out about the selling entity

Even before making your purchases online, another precaution to take is to know who is on the other side selling a certain good or service.

Online sales sites must, obligatorily, have the identification of the seller, with corporate name, physical address, telephone number and email. It’s a way of ensuring that you have someone to turn to to complain if something doesn’t go well.

If you discovered the store on social media, do a broader search, ask friends or on forums how their experience with the company was.


Make sure the page is secure

In order not to be led astray, there is another fundamental step: verifying that the site is credible and trustworthy.

Search for the name of the store or seller in a search engine and check that the URL (website address) matches what is written there. If it has more or less letters, or small variations in the name, be suspicious.

Another way to protect yourself is to check if the address starts with https:// and if a padlock appears on the left side. If yes, it means that the online store has a security certificate.

Ideally, choose to buy from recognized online stores or where someone you trust has already bought in the past and the experience went well.

If you go to a mall, you will most likely go into more than one store before deciding where to buy what you want. Don’t make your filter less tight just because you’re shopping online. Instead, do your research thoroughly to make sure you’re making a good purchase.

If in doubt, one way to rule out potential scams is to look for what other consumers say about the store or the product in question. You can, once again, use the search engine to do this research or, in the case of a national store, look for opinions or complaints on the Portal da Queixa.

Always doubt about discounts and super promotions that put the price of the product or service far below the market. If it is not fraud, you may, at best, be surprised with extra charges.


Please read the exchange and return policy carefully.

Before proceeding with the purchase, pay close attention to the store’s exchange and return policy, as well as delivery times, to avoid disappointments.

When buying online, you can cancel the purchase you made within a period of 14 days, and get your money back, without needing any justification. At issue is the right of free withdrawal that applies to distance purchases. However, the store may charge you for return shipping or, for example, require that the order be kept in its packaging in order to be exchanged.

Also, be aware that even under the right of withdrawal, not everything can be returned, as is the case, for example, with customized products made to order.


Beware of additional charges

Also check for additional expenses such as customs fees and VAT.

For example, on purchases made within member countries of the European Union, customs duties are not charged. However, there are territories belonging to the EU that in fiscal terms (VAT) are considered extra-community, being subject to customs control.


Choose a secure payment method

When shopping online, one of the main precautions to take is the payment method you choose. Paying by ATM reference or on delivery are safer methods. In any case, you are not sharing your data with anyone and upon delivery you have the opportunity to verify that what you have received is what you intended.

If you have to pay by card, choose to create a virtual card, so you can set a maximum amount to be spent and also don’t give more information than is strictly necessary to make the transaction. Before completing the payment, confirm that all associated costs and shipping costs are reflected in the advertised price.

There are no checks or physical receipts for online purchases. However, it is essential to keep all proof of the transaction in case there are delays in delivery or the product does not come in conditions and you have to complain.

Archive the electronic invoice and the emails or messages you exchanged with the seller. Even purchased from online stores, new products have a three-year warranty, so it’s a good idea to have proof of purchase if you need to contact the supplier.

Article originally published in November 2020. Updated in November 2022.

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