STILLWATER, Okla. – Many shoppers this holiday season will avoid the hustle and bustle of the malls and shop online when it is convenient for them.

According to studies, this holiday season the online sales are expected to total about $32 billion.

There are many benefits to online shopping, said Sissy Osteen, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service family resource management specialist.

“Shopping online is fast, efficient and provides consumers with easy access to comparison shopping,” Osteen said. “In addition, the Internet provides the opportunity to shop at stores you don’t have locally and you don’t have to get in your car and drive.”

Make sure online shopping is a safe experience by making sure the browser, the software used to navigate the Internet, complies with industry security standards.

“Buy from retailers you trust,” she said. “If you don’t know the company try doing a search, or go to bbbonline.org, to get information about the company. When making a purchase, use a credit card rather than a debit or check card. If information from a credit card is stolen, you can file a complaint and get the charge taken off; when debt card information is stolen a bank account can be wiped out.”

Osteen advises not purchasing from a Web site that was found by clicking on a link in an e-mail. This could be a “phishing” scam and personal data can be stolen. Also make sure virus software is up to date.

A customer can check how online stores are rated by customers who have used them. The Web site www.resellerratings.com is a source for determining who the best online retailers are.

“Just as you take precautions while shopping in a regular store, consumers need to be careful when shopping online, too,” Osteen said. “Online shopping can open a whole new world to consumers, but if the price seems too low it is important to check the reputation of the store. Shopping online can save money, but only if consumers make good decisions.”