There’s a reason why 70 percent of Americans have purchased an item online. It’s convenient, fast, and affordable.

While COVID-19 has disrupted the operations of many American online and brick-and-mortar stores, there has been a 25 percent uptick in ecommerce sales since the pandemic started. People continue to shop online platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and get their items through porch pick-ups. Consumers also continue to purchase items from eBay, Etsy, and Amazon and get them shipped straight to their homes. 

Most of these transactions happen seamlessly, but there is always risk involved any time you meet up with a complete stranger in person. For example, recently there has been an uptick of people being scammed when buying concert tickets on Craigslist. Scammers can easily manipulate e-tickets or cancel them after you send money without alerting you. 

These stories are enough to prevent people from online shopping altogether, but it’s not something you should be afraid of. Instead, follow these four tips for how to safely shop online.

Research the seller’s profile

Before you make a purchase, investigate the seller. If their personal item is listed on a local page but the location on their profile isn’t near you, keep shopping. Do a reverse image search of their profile picture to see if they are who they really say they are. You can also use MyLife.com to look up someone’s reputation. MyLife will show you their Reputation Profile that includes a Reputation Score, allowing you to better decide if they are legitimate or trustworthy. 

Check the seller’s reviews

In addition to researching the seller’s identity and location, you can also check out what other people are saying about them. Read all the comments and reviews that are available about the seller before making a purchase. If anything you uncover makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and don’t engage with the seller. To learn more about someone than a business review might provide, MyLife Reputation Profiles can include personal reviews written by friends, co-workers, and even people that person may have dated in the past. 

Use PayPal whenever possible

When shopping online, be mindful of your payment options before hitting the ‘buy now’ button. If you want to purchase an item from a seller on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, use PayPal if it’s available. The seller will receive the payment without having access to any of your sensitive financial or personal information, so you don’t have to worry about your account information being stolen. PayPal also offers a service called PayPal Purchase Protection that refunds buyers if they never receive the item they paid for. Even Etsy sellers sometimes have a PayPal option, so opt for that over a credit card to ensure you’re being as safe as possible. 

Regularly check your bank statements 

Checking your statements at least once a week is a good habit to get into. Whenever you pay with a credit or debit card, you are susceptible to having your information stolen. Checking your accounts for unauthorized activity will help you catch fraudulent charges early, so you can report it and prevent it from costing you. The sooner you catch a scam, the sooner it can be eradicated. 

Let these precautions give you peace of mind knowing that you can still be safe while online shopping.