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What to keep in mind when shopping online

What to keep in mind when shopping online
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First Published: Thu, May 26 2011. 11 53 PM IST
Updated: Sat, Jul 02 2011. 02 19 PM IST
With life getting hectic day by day, we hardly get time to manage our finances. With growing interest and accessibility, online personal finance is gaining momentum. Today, around 20 million people use the Internet for financial transactions, including paying insurance premiums and utility bills, and buying/selling investment products. If you aren’t among those leveraging online platforms, it’s high time you hit the button.
Though buying is possible directly from company websites, online aggregators are also gaining prominence due to their key advantage of facilitating “comparison”. Online portals offer multiple product prices for multiple firms enabling consumers to compare one against another. Other advantages of buying online is that it is cheaper than other modes as banks tend to pass on its saving on transaction costs. Then there are options to do intensive research, essential for making an informed decision. Expert reviews are also available online.
However, before logging in, you need to keep certain things in mind.
Verify information yourself
Web aggregators provide you products’ information, but one wonders about the veracity of information available on different websites. It is possible that you may have to pay 5% pre-closure charges on a personal loan even when the website is showing only 4%. The following steps will help you check facts before you make a purchase.
Second opinion: Verify information through a reliable source. For example, when buying health insurance, you can consult your doctor, insurance agent or healthcare service provider.
Use third-party verification: If you are ready to spend a few bucks, go for third-party verification service offered by companies. Such firms do the background check of companies by calling them up or meeting them.
You can also rely on the government as fresh guidelines issued by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority for insurance web aggregators are aiming to ensure transparency and uniformity of information.
Check if information is biased
Many a time, aggregators give biased information and are keen on advertising products that earn them maximum commission. Here you need to use research from independent analysis websites. They will give the pros and cons of products with in-depth analysis. Portals that do this include ICICIdirect.com, Fundsupermart.com, Sharekhan.com and Fundsindia.com, among others. These portals provide you with several asset allocation models that can be used to construct your portfolio based on your age and risk appetite. However, on the flipside, this support is available only for limiting products, including mutual funds and stocks.
Check if website is trustworthy
Incidents of cyber crime in India are increasing. Here e-commerce websites are particularly at high risk as they aggregate customers’ personal details. This calls for tight scrutiny of the website you intend to buy from to establish its trustworthiness. You can look for the website security certificate, security socket layer (SSL) to verify that the site is legitimate and can encode files safely. One way to check SSL is to look at the website’s address. Usually, secured sites have “https” instead of just “http” in its address bar. You can also read the security information available to determine the safety protocol. Some Web browsers also show whether a site is encrypted. Mozilla Firefox, for example, displays a closed padlock icon in its status bar, indicating its security.
Payment gateway security
This is imperative to protect your online security. Most of us would have been using either net banking or debit/credit card to pay our insurance premium, mutual fund payments and loan equated monthly instalments. They have to be password protected through a Verified By Visa (VBV), MasterCard Secured Code (credit/debit cards) and virtual keyboard or secured access image (net banking).
While using mobile payments, you have to use an additional one-time password for credit/debit cards.
Using virtual credit cards: A virtual credit card, an “add-on” issued by many banks, is a perfect online payment solution that offers complete security while shopping online. It’s a one-time- use card and once created is valid for only 24-48 hours from the time of its creation. Here you have the liberty to decide your spending limit. All leading banks provide this facility.
We welcome your comments at mintmoney@livemint.com
Satkam Divya is business head, Rupeetalk.com, a NetAmbit Venture
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First Published: Thu, May 26 2011. 11 53 PM IST