Online shopping adds danger as well as convenience

Monday, November 28, 2016

Will you dread opening your credit card bills come January?

If you're concerned, you might want to turn off your "one-click" purchase button on your favorite online shopping account.

If it really gets out of hand, say you're considering a consolidation loan to clean up last year's Christmas credit card bills, you might want to get professional help.

Let's hope you don't use it as an excuse, but shopping addiction is an actual impulse control disorder that can get out of hand the way video gaming, Internet, pornography, stealing and sex can.

About 5 percent of us are affected to the point that shopping controls us rather than the other way around, according to Dr. Ronald Fraser, the head of an inpatient treatment center in Montreal.

"It also has to result in some sort of functional impairment or significant clinical distress, frequently in the form of conflict within their significant relationships with loved ones."

There aren't a lot of studies on shopping addiction, but there's no evidence it affects women more than men, but Fraser assumes online shopping can only make the affliction more widespread.

While the resulting bills could ruin your financial health, with all the resulting family fallout, as well as the increased danger of identity theft, there is another way it could hurt.

You might lose your job.

CareerBuilder's annual Cyber Monday survey found that 53 percent of employees admitted spending at least some work time holiday shopping on the Internet, up 3 percent from last year.

Of those, 43 percent spent an hour or more doing it, compared to 42 percent last year.

While it might be relatively easy for employers to track online shopping via employees' desktop computers, that's not the only way staff can use work time for personal shopping. Some 49 percent use their personal smartphones or tablets to shop, up from 27 percent two years ago.

Employers aren't turning a blind eye to employees shopping at work.

More than a third monitor the sites employees visit, more than half block employees from certain websites and more than 11 percent have fired someone for holiday shopping on the Internet. All three of those categories were lower than last year, however, according to CareerBuilder.

Easy access to the Internet and shopping sites catering to impulse buyers make it important for people with potential problems to monitor their shopping and take steps to keep their spending under control.

Another way is to avoid online shopping temptations altogether and visit your friends at a local independent business to buy something that can't be found at a big-box retailer.

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