Online shopping tips: Don’t let last-minute desperation make you careless

Here's some advice to help keep your information and wallet safe

Jacob van Cleef

Former Consumer Watchdog, Associate, PIRG

Christmas feels like it came out of nowhere this year. Maybe it’s because it feels like time works differently during the pandemic. Maybe it’s because I’m never ready for Christmas. Luckily, I’ve developed the ability to somehow find good gifts last minute most years. There are plenty of last-minute gift warriors out there, but our ability to find those perfect gifts last minute has been hindered.


This year, people shouldn’t go out to a store in hopes of spotting that last teddy bear for their niece. Folks can’t hope to stumble across the perfect hat in the window as they frantically run through downtown looking for anything that’ll suffice. It’s not even advisable to go to a random store to get a random framed metal guitar decoration for a sibling just because they’re young and it’s cheap. The last-minute gift warriors have to move online.


The desperation of last-minute shopping becomes dangerous online. That same franticness can lead to going to bizarre websites or not properly comparing prices. Especially because this may be many people’s first time buying a large amount of gifts online, the security risks may be new to them. Tips for shopping online safely can be found here. Below are just a few tips.


Know where you are shopping. Make sure that the website is for the store that you’re looking for and not a website that simply looks like the real store.


Make sure to shop on a secure connection. When shopping online, make sure the website has a lock on the URL bar or “https” — not “http” for a secure line. The “s” stands for secure.


Compare prices with other stores. Make sure you don’t get ripped off. Don’t just find something and buy it. See what other online stores are selling the same or similar products for. There are always other options.


Shop local if you can. The deliveries from local stores could be quicker than larger businesses. That should be useful for those last-minute gift warriors that take “last minute” more literally than others. Plus, supporting local businesses during the pandemic is a good idea to help keep them in business for after the pandemic.

Best of luck to the last-minute shoppers. May your gifts be sufficient and may the express shipping be quick enough.


Jacob van Cleef

Former Consumer Watchdog, Associate, PIRG