Whilst most shopping sites are secure, offer a wide range of goods with fast shipping and an easy returns policy, there are a minority that have hit the headlines for criminal behaviour. These rogue sites scam shoppers by not delivering the goods purchased or take personal information given with the order to empty the buyer’s bank account. Whilst this sounds alarming, there are some easy guidelines to follow to stay safe.
Shopping online has proven to be safe for the majority and scams are rare. Not only are there bargains to be found, but individuals use online retailers for research, such as looking for unique 50th anniversary gift ideas for those who may be difficult to buy for. Follow these simple rules to keep your online shopping safe so you can continue to enjoy all the benefits it offers.
Use familiar websites
Use a trusted website. Search results for well-known retailers to reduce the risk of being ripped off. Double-check the spellings for accuracy. If there are typos in the address or an added hyphen, period or another symbol that should not be there, search again. Also, retailers should use “.com” in their website address, so avoid domains that use “.net”. The .net domain is the recommended alternative to .com when the .com is already in use and was originally meant to be used by umbrella websites acting as a portal for smaller sites.
SSL encryption as standard
All online shops should have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption. Make sure the URL for the site starts with HTTPS (not just HTTP) which is confirmed by an icon of a locked padlock to the left of the URL in the address bar.
Share minimal personal data
Do not share your Social Security number or your birth date with anyone online that has your bank account details. The more personal information you share online, the more likely it is that your identity will be stolen. Online sites are hacked all the time so be careful with the information you leave when shopping.
Check seller reviews
If you are wary of a site, check retailer reviews before releasing your credit card details. Whilst some online review sites can be filled with paid reviews, if you see nothing by positive feedback and the writers are not verified as customers, trust your instincts.
Update antivirus programmes
Protect your computer from the malware that online shopping sites can put on your computer to collect more information about you. Make sure your antivirus software can fight spam as well as phishing emails and phishing attacks from websites that look like legitimate messages but are not. Also, make sure these are always up to date to protect against new threats.
Do not shop in public
When using a public network when out and about, there is a risk others will see your activity. Do not input credit card details with the expiration date and three-digit code on the back into a site while in a café or somewhere others can see your screen or see you typing. Use sites that you trust that already have your credit card stored or better still, save the item and make the purchase from home.
Use mobile apps
Rather than using a shop’s website, use the app provided directly by the retailer to make your purchase. For even more security, use your smartphone’s mobile payment app like Apple Pay which generates a one-time-use authentication code for the purchase that no one else could ever steal and use and keeps you safe from card skimmers. Google Pay and others will allow instant payment once a fingerprint, face, or passcode is confirmed.
Do not pay with a debit card
Do not pay for your online shop with a debit card. If hackers get your debit card details they have direct access to your bank account. This is why credit card payments are preferable. If a shop requests funds are wired, this is a red flag. There are also protections with credit card payments that do not apply to debit cards. If there are issues with payments on your credit card notify the bank as soon as possible.