How to stay safe and save money while online shopping

Who doesn't love a good online bargain? You get what you need at an affordable price. But the best part is that your purchase is brought right to your door. However, whether you're surfing the Web for a new bathing suit, an electronic device or a novel to read this summer, it's important that you do two things: stay safe and save money. 

1. The prevalence of online scams
Fraudulent activity affects online shoppers of all ages. Keeping an eye out for these scams is part of a safe and healthy lifestyle for seniors. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), online scams account for a total loss of $264.6 million each year, which is the equivalent of every victim losing $931 to thieves. 

Of all the scams that were reported to the IC3 in 2008, 32.9 percent occurred when shoppers were paying for goods over the Internet. The type of site where frauds occurred most frequently was auction sites like Ebay. However, most frauds - 74 percent - were initiated by email, according to the IC3. It's important that you know how to properly identify scams if you're targeted.

Being wary of online scams can prevent you from losing hundreds of dollars. Being wary of online scams can prevent you from losing hundreds of dollars.

How to recognize a scam
Thieves can be very tricky and often have no shame creating fraudulent charities that ask Internet users to donate money. These offers may pop up in your email or as advertisements on the side of a website. If you do come across a charity that you're thinking about donating to, do your research and check that the organization is legitimate - any real charity will generally be happy to provide you with more information. If you're not familiar with the company or it doesn't show up in your online searches, you can always check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau.

Another red flag is advertisements for electronics or other expensive products for prices that seem too good to be true. The National Consumers League's Fraug.org explained that if you do your research and find that the company is real, it's common for vendors that are going out of business to promise low prices or enticing rebates for items they'll never deliver

After you purchase products online, the retailer will usually send you an email with news regarding your shipping information. Keep an eye out for unsolicited emails - even responding to them once without any personal information may show the fraudulent company that your email is active, and it could invite the thieves to send you more scam messages. It's best to delete any emails from people you don't recognize. However, if you do open a suspicious message by accident, never click on attachments or hyperlinks. 

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, you can make a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and report the scam to your state's Attorney General. 

"Price comparison tools will help you get the most affordable deals."

2. Strategies for saving 
After you've familiarized yourself with a few strategies to protect your personal information while shopping, you can focus on how to save money. Regardless of what you're shopping for, taking advantage of price comparison tools will help you get the most affordable deal. 

ConsumerReports.org suggested checking out Pricegrabber.com, which provides a search bar similar to the one provided by Google. You type in the name of your product, and the site will direct you to the website that sells it at the lowest price. If you still haven't found a price that meets your expectations, the site also offers a price alert tool that lets you enter an email and receive a notification when the price drops. Other sites like NexTag.com and Google Product Search have been rated highly by users. 

To locate promotional codes, use RetailMeNot.com, which allows users to enter their desired retailer into the search engine to see if there are any codes available or browse through more than 500,000 coupons from over 50,000 stores. As the codes can be long, you'll have to copy and paste them into the promotional code box on the retailer's site once you're ready to pay. 

Always take product reviews into consideration before purchasing an item. Sites like Consumersearch.com and Amazon provide consumers with detailed product descriptions and reviews written by shoppers who have purchased and used the product for an accurate buyer's perspective.