I love shopping online; there's no crowds, no hassle, and no pushy cashiers trying to sell you stuff you don't really need. But let's be honest here, there's always going to be a certain amount of risk involved with online purchases, no matter how safe or secure the process is. I hear tons of stories all the time about people who placed an order for a certain product online, a new video game console, a new iPad, etc, and ended up receiving a broken product or even worse, no product at all. You have to be careful when you shop online, and I have two major tips when it comes to avoiding getting ripped off the next time you go shopping online.

Stick with sites you know and trust

I've mentioned this before, but the best way to stay safe and avoid getting ripped off online is to stick to sites that you trust. For most people, this is either big-name online retailers like Amazon, or the websites of major brick-and-mortar stores, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target. (well, maybe not Target so much these days...) However, that's not to say every online retailer that you've never heard of is a complete rip-off. I've stumbled upon a few unknown retailers that have always given me fantastic service. So if you have a good track record with a site, by all means, keep on using it.

But if you do go to an unfamiliar site, here's a few things you need to check out first:

- Is the site secure? Check the address bar for a small lock-shaped icon, that indicates the site is safe to purchase from. Do NOT buy from any site that does not have this icon.

- What are the terms and conditions? Does the buyer offer a money-back guarantee or some kind of warranty? If the terms and condition look sketchy, or even worse, if they're nowhere to be found, take your business elsewhere.

- Does the site have a good reputation? The Better Business Bureau has a lot of good information on whether or not websites are legitimate or not, so it's not a bad idea to check with the BBB before you purchase anything form a site you're unsure of.

- What about the seller? Do they have good reviews, or a ton of complaints? Sometimes, shady websites will give five-star or top ratings to sellers that are prone to ripping people off. So make sure you know how those sellers got their ratings when you check them out. You may want to run a Google search on the seller as well if you're really suspicious of them.

Use credit, not debit

As anyone can tell you, there is a big difference between debit cards and credit cards. And it is far safer to use a credit card for online purchases instead of your debit card. Debit cards take the money out of your account immediately, so if you use debit cards for online purchases, you are at the complete mercy of your bank. And if you're dealing with a fraud website, you just put your personal account information at a huge risk.

Credit cards tend to offer more protection for online purchases. For example, most credit cards allow you the right to dispute a charge made to your account if something you ordered shows up broken on arrival, or doesn't arrive at all. In fact, a good way to tell if a site is bogus or not is to check whether or not they accept credit cards. It they don't, there may be a good chance that you're dealing with a shady site.

Next week on The Geek Girl Report, we'll be checking out some of the coolest and most wanted gadgets from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Be sure and check out The Geek Girl Report every Tuesday morning, only on KFYO.com. And be sure to follow me on Twitter as well: @ArielWalden214.