Tips for Safe Online Shopping

With so many scammers out there Trust between customers and online merchants is of great importance. With Black Friday just around the corner, We have therefore come up with a checklist of a few items you should look out for before using your money online.

1. Shop where you trust

Shopping IRL (in real life) offers this advantage: You’ll usually know the business and the inventory exist. But on the web, some businesses are fabricated by people who just want your credit card information and other personal details. Consider doing online business only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before.

2. Size up the business

Break out your detective skills when you want to buy something from a new merchant. Does the company interact with a social media following? What do its customer reviews say? Does it have a history of scam reports or complaints at the Better Business Bureau? Take it one step further by contacting the business. If there’s no email address, phone number or address for a brick-and-mortar location, that could be a red flag that it’s a fake company.

3. Beware rock-bottom prices

If a website offers something that looks too good to be true—like rock-bottom prices or an endless supply of free smartphones—then it probably is. Use similar websites to compare prices and pictures of the merchandise. Perpetually low prices could be a red flag that the business doesn’t have those items in stock. The website may exist only to get your personal information.

4. Avoid public Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With a little tech know-how and the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite coffee shop, someone can intercept what you’re looking at on the web. That can include emails, browsing history or passwords. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name and credit card information. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to shop online or log in to any website while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi.

5. Use a VPN

If you must shop online on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server. Think of it as a tunnel your Internet traffic goes through while you browse the web. Hackers lurking nearby can’t intercept it, even if they have the password for the Wi-Fi network you’re using. A VPN means you’ll likely have a safe way to shop online while you’re on public Wi-Fi.

6. Use a strong password

If someone has the password to your account, they can log in, change the shipping address, and order things while you get stuck with the bill. Help keep your account safe by locking it with a strong password. Here are some tips on how:

  • Use a complex set of lowercase and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Avoid words that come from a dictionary.
  • Don’t use personal information that others can find or guess, such as birthdates, your kids’ names or your favorite color.
  • And don’t use the same password—however strong—on multiple accounts. A data breach at one company could give criminals access to your other, shared-password accounts.

7. Check out the webpage security

You’ve probably seen that small lock icon in the corner of your URL field. That lock signals you that the web page you’re on has privacy protection installed. It’s called a “secure sockets layer.” Plus, the URL will start with “https,” for “hyper text transfer protocol secure.” These websites mask and transfer data you share, typically on pages that ask for passwords or financial info. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” then the webpage isn’t secure. Because there is no privacy protection attached to these pages, we suggest you exercise caution before providing your credit card information over these sites.

8. Watch out for email scams

Sometimes something in your email in-box can stir your consumer cravings. For instance, it might be tempting to open an email that promises a “special offer.” But that offer could be special in a bad way. Clicking on emails from unknown senders and unrecognizable sellers could infect your computer with viruses and malware. It’s better to play it safe. Delete them, don’t click on any links, and don’t open any attachments from individuals or businesses you are unfamiliar with.

9. Don’t give out more information than you need to

Here’s a rule of thumb: No shopping website will ever need your ID number. If you’re asked for very personal details, call the customer service line and ask whether you can supply some other identifying information. Or just walk away.

10. Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card

Credit cards often offer more fraud prevention and protection than debit cards. If you use a debit card and purchases are made without your permission, the money is withdrawn directly from your account. Debit cards should be treated like cash. On the other hand, if you use a credit card, you have more time to dispute fraudulent charges and the bank can withhold payment while they investigate the incident.

Aside from checking your bank statements, it is a good practice to review the transaction history of your credit card and bank accounts regularly to check for any unusual activity, such as unauthorised payments. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, alert your bank immediately. 

11. Do not store your credit card information online

Some online retailers offer the option of storing your credit card information after you have made a transaction. While this provides more convenience for future transactions, you may be putting your credit card information at risk. Major companies have suffered data breaches and had their customers’ credit card information stolen. You should not store your credit card information online, in the same way you should not provide your credit card details over email or a phone call.

12. Try a virtual credit card

Some banks offer nifty tools that act like an online version of your card: a virtual credit card. The issuer will randomly generate a number that’s linked to your account, and you can use it anywhere online and choose when the number expires. It might be best to generate a new number every time you buy something online, or when you shop with a new retailer. Anyone who tries to use that number will be out of luck.

13. Enable 2FA for all online transactions

Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) for your online transactions and account logins gives you an added layer of protection. Having this in place will alert you to fraudulent transactions that are about to take place, giving you time to alert your bank and lodge a report.

14.  Be vigilant against phishing or bogus sites

Cyber criminals can create websites that mimic popular sites to trick people into revealing their personal information through various approaches. One approach that cyber criminals use is substituting visually similar characters in the web address, e.g. www.amaz0n.com instead of www.amazon.com, so be sure to review the web address carefully. You can also consider using tools such as Google Safe Browsing to check the current safety status of a website.

15. Check your statements regularly

Check your statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week, or set up account alerts. When you receive a text or email about a charge, you can check the message and likely easily recall whether you made the charge.

16. Mind the details

After you make the purchase, keep these items in a safe place: the receipt, order confirmation number and postal tracking number. If you have a problem with the order, this information will help the merchant resolve the problem.

17. Customer feedback

Take a look on the website to see if there are any customer reviews about the products or the company. Also, if you are uncertain, run a search for the name of the website and the words “scam” or “fake”. You’ll quickly find out if others have had bad experiences and you should steer clear.

18. Take action if you don’t get your stuff

Call the merchant and provide the details noted in Tip 13. If the merchant turns out to be fake, or they’re just plain unhelpful, then your credit card provider can help you sort out the problem. Often, they can remove the charge from your statement.

19. Report the company

If you suspect the business is bogus, notify your credit card company about the charge and close your account with the store.

 

This list may not include all possible ways in which one can stay safe online, but it definitely helps reduce the risk of you falling prey to online scammers

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