Consumers Feel Safer Buying Online, Than Offline?

With the US holiday season approaching, representing the largest sales spike of the year, it's time to put any last minute touches on e-commerce and affiliate sites. And according to CNN (source):

Internet-related sales are forecast to jump 19.1 percent to $174.5 billion in 2007

In addition to being an Internet Marketer and making sales online for a living, I am also one of those people who is spending more and more of my money online - rather than offline. This sparked an interesting conversation recently...

When you consider your personal security and the possibility of Identity Theft, do you feel safer making purchases online... or offline?

Personally I prefer to place orders online, and am more wary about handing out my credit card (or using my debit card) offline or in public. Whether it's handing my card to a waiter at a restaurant who may swipe it twice or jot down the number, or using my debit card and wondering if the guy in line behind me is watching me enter my PIN number, I tend to be a little more concerned.

Obviously the threat is there regardless of how cautious you are, but I am curious to know how you feel about the security of shopping online vs offline? I am guessing that the general population is becoming much more comfortable with the idea of making internet-based purchases.

Buying online is convenient of course, because you can shop anytime of the day or night, and without traveling. With most merchants offering free shipping or delivery, it becomes even more convenient to buy things like furniture or other over-sized items I cant fit into my car.

My backyard hammock swing and my new office desk being two good examples. They were both delivered straight to the door at no extra cost.

And do I feel more comfortable entering my credit card number into a secure server than I do watching a salesman walk off with my credit card?

You bet I do...

In almost 11 years, I have NEVER encountered a problem online. Several months ago I had my card number stolen when I made a purchase offline. The department store's database was hacked into and an entire block of Mastercard numbers retrieved. Fortunately they caught it in time and issued us all new cards... causing a major switch-over hassle, but at least no financial loss.

Still, I've never even come close to having that happen online. I realize that it can, and that it has, but personal experience over the last decade leaves me feeling more secure working directly with merchants on the internet than with the general public out in "the real world".

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic - both as a buyer and a seller. Do you feel that people whip out their credit cards more easily for internet purchases these days? Do you?

Online Shopper

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. I just like the convenience of shopping online. Haven't worried much about the security, although online I do pay attention and think about where I'm putting in my credit card number.

    But I agree it seems like you aren't too likely to have your credit card number stolen online, short of falling for phishing. I think that's where most people get nervous about their credit cards online, hearing all the horror stories about people being tricked out of their information.

  2. I use my cards on and offline. I more often purchase things online with them than in stores, just by habit, I think. (usually in stores it seems more usual to reach for cash)

    Recently I had two unauthorized charges show up on one of my accounts showing online purchases. Since I check my balances and charges frequently (usually daily) on both my accounts, I caught them before they were even deducted from my account. They were still showing as card authorizations. I contacted my bank immediately.

    The bank voided my VISA card and took the charges off. I did have to wait for about a week for a new card but that was the only consequence to me. I turned out to be just a minor inconvenience.

    Had I not caught it right away, I don't know how much more of a hassle it might have been. Possibly some overdrafts or something could have shown up but the bank told me that if there were overdrafts as a result of fradulent charges they would be refunded.

    The bank did tell me that I would be required to fill out a form about the charges and sign it. I haven't recieved it yet so don't know how much is required with that but, so far it seems fairly painless.

    I would recommend checking you accounts and withdrawals regularly whether you use your card on line or off. It's easy to do online with most banks. I check mine almost daily and immediately if I suspect something might have been done wrong.

  3. Excellent advice, Duane!

    Its so easy now with Online Banking, I agree.

  4. Online shopping is safe, if you know how to use it carefully. It's make our life easier.

    Anyway, this post is great Duane!

  5. Cate Brizzell says

    I am very wary of debit cards. I prefer to use credit cards with rewards--currently Marriott points. The key is paying them off each month.

    We had our credit card number stolen twice, with unauthorized charges. Because we use an online budget tracking system, we saw the charges within a day or two of them being made. We immediately contacted the CC company and the charges were cleared.

    Still don't know whether the numbers were stolen online or offline.

    I suppose you could use separate cards for online/offline purchases, but I am simplifying life, and don't want a wallet full of cards.

    I've felt comfortable shopping online nearly 11 years now and it's my preferred shopping method. My kids' school actually asked me to give a mini-seminar on how to do online Christmas shopping at one PTF meeting.

    It's like anything else--do your due diligence and plan ahead.

    And do you spend more using credit? Absolutely. No doubt about it.

  6. nice article!

  7. i'd rather buy offline

  8. Any particular reason?

  9. This is an interesting topic! Oddly enough, I still feel safer shopping offline. Even though I do a lot of shopping online (usually with bigger names and sites I trust - Amazon for example), I'm still nervous about making bigger purchases with businesses I don't know. Spending a few dollars here and there really is no big deal, but when you start shopping for electronics and such....well I just need a certain level of trust for that.

    I'm also not a big spender on eBay, because you never know who you are buying from. There's no "professional website" and little way to tell who exactly you are buying from.

    I'd say at this point I'm a bit half and half - I still trust offline more, but that doesn't stop me from making half my purchases online from stores I trust more than a little store offline.

  10. Robert Nelson says

    I try to shop online. Also do Online banking. Like Lynn feel it is more convenient, safer, and to a lesser extent might save money on taxes or shipping. Besides there always changing the location of what is on there shelves or maybe there just plain out of it.

  11. E-commerce is increasing massively and while ever this is happening, there is going to be a greater play on security and perceived security. Online purchasing, in my experience is becoming more secure, however scammers are still prevalent, especially on well known auction sites.

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