Because online retailers do not have to maintain a store and pay rents, and only need to maintain a skeleton staff to run, they are able to offer lower prices. Another very good reason to consider online shopping is that the shop is always open; there are no opening and closing hours.

You can avoid the crowds at the mall, the traffic jams and store clerks who work on commission trying to influence your choice, and then you work as well as shop from your desk. Some shopping sites go further and offer free shipping and even gift wrapping.

But the growth of online businesses has also seen a corresponding growth of online crime. While at the mall you would watch your wallet or handbag against pickpockets and bag snatchers these group of criminals are interested in mining your personal and financial information and in turn using it to shop like you or use it to obtain credit or to commit crime. Although shopping online is generally safe it is important to take into account certain basic precautions to take while shopping online.

It is important that your computer comes with a secure browser that certain industry standards like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transaction. These ensure that the information you enter online is safe, and it does this by encrypting the information as it makes its way from your computer to online trader’s computer.

Another way to find out if a site is safe is to check if it displays any one of these signs; picture of a closed lock, an unbroken key or the address will begin with “https”. Your browser may warn you too if a site is not safe by displaying a dialog box informing you that you are sending your information to an unsafe site, make a decision to proceed or not.

There are other common sense actions to take to stay safe while shopping online. Try shopping at well known stores especially if it is your first time. Take time to read most of the site, see if there are any reviews from other customers, how old is the site. If it is new then you cannot tell how reliable or trustworthy the company is, it is best to avoid it. Keep a specific card for online shopping and keep a record of all transactions or print the confirmation page of all transactions.

One very useful way to shop and especially if you are spending lots of money is to buy through a middle person or what is commonly known as escrow. An escrow service keeps the money you pay on your behalf and confirms reception with the seller who then ships the item. The money is only released to him once you confirm that you have received the item.