e-Commerce Safety: Teach teens too!

Shopping online? Caveat Emptor.

Discount designer shoes? Replacement peripherals for your computer at a low-low price? Who doesn’t love a bargain? But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Last summer, I was thrilled when I discovered an online boutique for purchasing a variety of fashion items, including brand name footwear, presumably from the prior season. After browsing and considering selections, I poked one little toe into the purchase process, and felt uneasy. Something wasn’t right.

VeriSign Secured is a symbol of transactional security. I realized there were no signs of Internet security, as well as good business practice, that I take for granted on commercial web sites.

Then I thought about the deep discount offered, the fact that I couldn’t actually see or handle the merchandise until it arrived, and I got out of there quickly!

When it comes to Internet transactions – caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

Teaching our kids e-commerce safety

TRUSTe symbolMost of us do a little of everything online these days, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still vulnerable if we don’t pay attention. And when it comes to our kids, have we thought to teach them the basics of e-commerce safety? Or sharing data with an informational web site?
Better Business Bureau  My kids have been making online purchases since they were 13 or 14, engaging in e-commerce, with my permission. I bet yours have as well. And when it’s a site we use ourselves (Amazon, eBay, our favorite super-store), we don’t think twice. But we need to recognize signs of potential scams, and teach our teens as well.

Quick tips on Internet safety

When considering a purchase or providing personal data:

  • Is there a VeriSign or TRUSTe symbol, or other transaction security provider symbol present?
  • What about the Better Business Bureau?
  • Have you used Google to check for potential complaints?

The other evening, my 16-year old mentioned he wanted to register on a site to research college scholarships. Then he said: “They want a lot of really personal information. But that should be okay, right? Since I’m not buying anything?”

When in doubt, check it out!

I was surprised, so we looked at the site together, where we saw VeriSign, Better Business Bureau, and other indications of Internet safety. In fact, the requested data made sense, as it was part of a matching process to specific funds. (I nonetheless Googled to make sure there were no site complaints of scams or fraud.)

Google to check for potential complaints or fraud. I also took the opportunity to point out the privacy terms, explaining how personal details might be shared with business partners, for sales campaigns.

It wasn’t even ten minutes of my time, and that was that. But I admit I was embarrassed that it never occurred to me to discuss this with him years ago. So do take a look at this short post with more specifics on e-commerce safety, “Internet discounts: Buyer beware” – and teach your kids. A little knowledge really does go a long way.

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    It’s good to teach our kids about the different kinds of “safe” we need to be when it comes to giving out personal information online. The world’s so much different than when we were kids, huh?

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Nice to hear from you Maureen. And please do check out the other post. It includes some other tips on what to look for when you’re internet shopping. Don’t be fooled by “reviews” of a site’s products that are glowing. Make sure there are clear return policies and other information that you would expect of a well-known organization.

      Make sure you look for “safety indicators” on donation sites as well, and be sure to check them out for legitimacy.

  2. Linda says

    Thank you for this. My kids are 15 and 11 and I definitely will do what I can to make sure they are safe in this internet world.

  3. says

    Great reminder. I had a friend make a large purchase on eBay, paid the money and never received the item. eBay told him to contact the police in the seller’s hometown. Only problem, that town was in England. The whole thing became too complicated and he said goodbye to his money. You have to be careful when shopping online.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Excellent point, DM – about purchasing from overseas! Even when it is a well-known site like eBay, it’s critical to assess the individual seller’s capacity for fair dealings.

  4. says

    What a good and practical post. I have not yet thought of these things as my kids are super young, but I think it is good for all of us to think about these things. For better or worse, technology is changing the landscape of our lives. Its impact is ubiquitous and we should be cognizant of this impact as we parent our kids.

    Thanks for making me think of something that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred to me. This is why I come here every day. Because you always offer up a fresh angle on something important and meaningful. Oh, and your writing isn’t terrible either :)

  5. says

    Great piece! This is a learning experience for most of us, even as adults, as e-commerce is not something our parents taught us about in our youth.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      It’s funny – I remember learning about the Better Business Bureau as a teenager, and only whatever data they had on certain businesses. Now – we have the good and the bad of our wired and networked world, where scams abound alongside legitimate (for profit and not-for-profit) enterprise. Fortunately, we also have tools to reduce our risks, as long as we know enough to use them, along with common sense.

  6. says

    Good point! The girls don’t purchase anything online by themselves yet (I won’t even tell them my iTunes password for fear of them buying too many songs), but something to definitely keep in mind once I do start allowing them.


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