How To Purchase Safely Online

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Educating children about Internet safety is a critical issue. Safe Connects enables schools to educate their K-12 school youths and their parents about Internet safety. Unfortunately, the newspapers are increasingly filled with stories that range from net predators to stolen passwords, and some students can tell stories about friends that have had real life and potentially very dangerous Internet-arranged “meeting situations.” In fact, almost one in five youths are contacted in an inappropriate manner by an adult in a chat room pretending to be a youth, and some parents are not sufficiently Net-savvy to be able to help their kids understand that the cyberspace is a mirror of the real world — there are both good people and bad people. But because of the trusting nature of many youths and the deception that is possible via the Net, Net Literacy believes more time and resources should be dedicated to educating children.




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Net Literacy’s Safe Connects program increases Internet safety awareness to all Americans, but especially to our youth. The Safe Connects program engages youths to learn about Internet safety and crafts age-specific programs for K-12 students and their parents. Net Literacy is grateful for the support of the Indiana Department of Education, Parent Teacher Organizations, School District Safety Training Officers, and Police Departments. We couldn’t have done it without a team effort!




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Purchasing products and services online is becoming increasingly commonplace. Ecommerce – or purchasing products and services over the Internet – is predicted to continue growing explosively. But while an increasing number of individuals make purchases online, unfortunately, an increasing number of people never receive their product or receive a damaged product and are not successful rectifying the problem with the company. Also, widespread internet shopping has led to an increase in identity theft.


When purchasing a product online, you should ask yourself three questions. Is the company and product reputable, does the website have BBB Online or TRUSTe certification, and does the website have a physical address and a telephone number? Why is this important?





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First – if you know the company where you are considering making a purchase, or have friends that recommend them, or if the online company also has a physical presence in your community – this is a good sign. If the website has a phone number and physical address – you can more easily contact them if you have a customer service problem. Many reputable companies include this information on their website. It’s not a guarantee – but it is a good sign.


Also, purchasers can search for products based upon user comments about stores. Google is the world’s most popular search engine – and they provide a service called Google Product Search that allows users to search for merchandise and categorizes merchants by ratings that the they receive from individuals that have purchased at their websites.


To test this – go to and click on “shopping” up at the top of the page. Then, type in a product that you would like to buy and click “search”, and then you can see the price of the product at different merchants and you can see ratings for various merchants. There are also other websites – such as – that provide overall ratings and consumer comments.




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The Better Business Bureau Online logo on a website means that the company is a member of their local Better Business Bureau, pledge to meet the BBBOnLine Reliability Standards for ethical online business practices, and have agreed to resolve complaints using the BBB’s dispute resolution program or a similar program.


TRUSTe is an independent nonprofit enabling trust based on privacy for personal information on the internet. TRUSTe certifies and monitors web site privacy and email policies, monitors practices, and resolves thousands of consumer privacy problems every year.


A website that has either of these logos on its homepage is an indication that the company is reputable.




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Many merchants offer discounts, savings, and coupons online that are not available on their own website. It’s worth using Google to search for a product – and as an example, the computer manufacturer Dell was searched on to see what type of Dell computer coupons were available. The search identified dozens of websites. Some of the coupons saved $100, offered free shipping, or provided 10-15% discounts on selected products. Typically, you will be provided a code to enter during the checkout process when purchasing a product. This is a legitimate way that millions of shoppers save money when purchasing products online.




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Identity theft is becoming an increasingly significant problem, and especially for those that shop on the Internet. Identify theft occurs when someone steals an individual’s personal information to illegally purchase products or services and charges them to the person whose identity was stolen.





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Identity Theft has impacted over ten million victims in the United States. On average, victims spend $1500 and 175 hours to recover which cost merchants over $50 billion in 2007.


The Federal Trade Commission says that the average American will not discover that he or she is a victim of identity theft until 12 months after their identity has been stolen.




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Identity theft is as real a possibility online as it is in everyday life. When using a computer to access the Internet, there are three important steps that everyone can take to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identify theft:


First, make certain that the company is reputable. You can do this by checking for a BBB online or TRUSTe logo and by checking for a physical address and phone number.


Second, identify theft can take place when hackers attempt to obtain information by accessing your computer. To reduce the chances of this, use a firewall, antivirus software, and anti-spyware software on your computer. Some software doesn’t automatically update itself – so it’s important to know what is required for a user to do with each of these three important types of software.


Third, safeguard your passwords – don’t give your passwords out to anyone other than your parents.


Fourth, avoid providing your social security number to anyone online if at all possible.




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Identity theft is expensive and painful.


It can take hundreds of hours of an individual’s time to straighten things out – and it may impact your credit rating.


Approximately 73% of respondents indicated the crime involved the thief acquiring a credit card. Sometimes, a “brick and mortar” or online store have their customers’ credit card information stolen. Tens of millions of individuals have had their identify compromised when their credit card information was stolen.


The emotional impact is similar to that of victims of violent crimes – because victims receive bills for products they didn’t purchase, they can have collection agencies call them, and they have their credit rating ruined.






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How can everyone learn more about protecting themselves from identity theft?


There are many resources available on the Internet – and the first place to learn more is by conducting a search. There is much information that is free. Some services, including credit bureaus, will sell you a service that provides a monthly report every time anyone requests a credit card be issued in your name. But researching identity theft will teach you additional methods to protect yourself, and it will provide you with information so that you can decide if purchasing a service is right for you. A law passed in 2006 now allows everyone to obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once each year. So please consider researching “identity theft” on the Internet – and avoid becoming one of more than 10,000,000 identity theft victims.




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Safe Connects’ mission is to (a) increase public awareness of Internet safety issues via PSAs, newsletters, community leaders, and the media (b) working with the Indiana Department of Education and other Indiana government agencies to eventually integrate Internet safety into our state’s K-12 school curriculum, (c) to create a public website for parents, youths, religious institutions, and schools to promote Internet safety and the Safe Connects program, (d) to provide town hall programs (taught by youths and adults) to discuss Internet safety and suggest actionable programs for adults to help protect and educate their children, and (d) teaching volunteers leadership and responsibility skills.