The online shopping industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, offering more convenience and speed to shoppers than ever before.
However convenience can come at a price. Online shopping can be a dangerous game for the unprepared or inexperienced. So here we offer our own tips and tricks on how to shop safely online.
Online shoppers face a variety of threats, which can include scam websites selling fake goods or services, lurking spyware that can steal a victim’s banking information and phishing scams designed at fooling a victim into handing over sensitive details to a scammer.
The good news is that a little knowledge can go a long way, so here are some important tips to follow that will show you how you can shop safely online, with peace of mind.
Reputable Sites Only
Sticking with trustworthy, reputable sites is one of the most important things a cyberspace shopper can do in order to shop safely online and avoid the most popular Internet scams.
When you use a reputable website to do your shopping you know that they will provide the service and products that they promise and your banking information will be kept safe and not stolen or used against you.
Of course almost everyone is aware of sites like Buy.com or Amazon.com that can be a great online destination to do your shopping. Going directly to the sites of popular manufacturers or producers is also a great way of making sure you won’t get scammed.
Another good thing about using reputable sites is that they offer better customer protection in the case of, for example, packages that are damaged in transit or mistakes in orders, and will have refund or exchange policies in place for unhappy customers.
You should only shop from websites that you know are trustworthy and have heard of, or ones that have been personally recommended from a trusted friend.
Do your research!
If you are thinking about buying from a site you’re not sure about, always research it first before handing over your information. This is key if you want to shop safely online.
You can also use a search engine like Google to research the site. Simply enter the web address of the site between quotation marks and see what kind of Internet presence the website has. Little or no feedback on a website is not a good thing. Look for genuine reviews of the website from real previous customers.
This can mean asking friends who may know the site or may have a more educated opinion than yourself. Does the site appear legitimate? If you’re not sure we have an article on some tell-tale signs of a scam site here.
Also take a look at a websites WHOIS entry. Every website on the Internet gets registered on the WHOIS database and from here you can tell when the website went online. A new website is a red flag and possibly a scam website. You can find the WHOIS database here.
Using a credit card as a form of payment is the safest option because of the customer protection it offers. If you do find that you were scammed, providing you report the fraud in a timely fashion you should be able to get a charge-back that limits your liability.
Other payment methods, such as debit, PayPal or other online transfer services do not offer as much protection, meaning that if you do unwittingly transfer money to a scammer, it’s may be too late to do anything about it. Though it is worth mentioning that many smaller legitimate sites don’t offer Credit card payment options, and may only accept PayPal.
Use secure websites.
Did you know that you should only enter your banking information on secure webpages?
Secure webpages transmit the data entered into them in a secure format meaning scammers cannot intercept the information and grab your valuable details. All legitimate websites will only allow you to enter your personal information on a secure webpage, which is a page that begins with HTTPS, not just HTTP like unsecure webpages.
So if you find yourself about to enter those card details on a page with HTTP at the front, you should not go any further!
Avoid public Wi-Fi Networks
Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks may be a great way to connect to the Internet, but they are unsecured, meaning that anyone could potentially intercept the data you send and receive from websites you visit and interact with.
This can include sensitive banking information. It is recommended never to use such public “hotspots” to shop on the Internet. If a scammer does intercept the data you send whilst shopping, then they have given themselves access to your card information.
Have up-to-date security software installed
Malware, specifically spyware, is a significant nuisance to online shoppers because it can, for example, log the information you enter into your computer, such as credit card details, and send it to scammers. Or it could automatically forward a shopper to spoof scam websites without the shopper realising.
Shoppers with little or outdated security software could be at risk of this happening so having up-to-date, reliable security software is vital to prevent these types of attacks.
You can check our current recommendations for good antivirus by clicking this link.