11 Tips to Stay Safe When Shopping Online
There are different reasons why we prefer making an online purchase. E-commerce websites are glazing platforms where you can find great bargains and mind-boggling selections. It’s just-a-click-away shopping partnered with decent customer service (well sometimes). In the modern age, shopping has become more convenient for most buyers.
However, there’s no such thing as perfect — even on online shopping. Phishing, scams and other digital crimes do exist. Data from cbs.com stated that in 2013 alone, seven percent (7%) of US organizations had lost more than $1 Million as a result of various crimes that happen on the web.
While online crimes are indeed alarming, they should not hinder you from having good buys online. Below is a quick list of helpful considerations that will make you even more confident while shopping online.
1. Deal with Authoritative Sites
Rather than shopping with various sites you find on search engines, shop at a trusted site. Search results aren’t always helpful in finding excellent e-commerce sites. There are those known sites like Amazon which sells almost everything under the sun. But be careful about some typographic errors while trying to visit these famous e-commerce sites or those sites which utilize a different top-level domain like .net instead of .com. Their sales could be enticing but that’s part of the trick to making you disclose your confidential information.
2. Seek for the Lock
Never use your credit card especially on sites that don’t have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. Sites that have SSL encryption start with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. Also never give anyone your credit card details over email.
3. Be Picky of What You Reveal
No good online shopping store would ask you even the last four digits of your social security number or even your birthday in placing your purchases. On a more serious note, these pieces of crucial information might be accessed by identity thieves that would certainly lead to a pile of catastrophe. You can either write down the information yourself or call a customer care representative. If your orders are being processed by a sales associate over the phone, be sure to ask the name and ID number of the sales associate, reference number of the call, and the date and time when you called in.
4. Have Statements Checked
Instead of waiting idly for your bill to come by the end of the month, go online and look for an updated electronic statement of your credit card, debit card or your checking accounts. Make sure that there are no fraudulent transactions and dispute charges, even by famous sites like PayPal. When you see that there’s something wrong, have matters addressed as soon as possible. Call the bank customer service department to file a fraud or dispute case. It usually takes one to two billing cycles for the whole investigation procedure. Most of the time, you are given at least 30 days to report or notify the bank about irregularities in the account.
5. Protect Your Computer
Tricksters have their own genius things. You need to ensure that your computer unit is protected against Malware by having your antivirus program regularly updated. Malware could include harmful viruses, spyware and other unwanted software that gets installed on your PC or even on mobile devices without asking for your consent. These programs may cause your device to crash and can be even used by the bad guys to control and monitor your online activity. Know that a number of criminals have been using Malware to steal essential information, commit fraudulent and send spam.
6. Implement Strong Passwords
We don’t like someone taking in our account without our permission. That’s why make sure to utilize strong passwords. It is even more important when banking and doing shopping online. Here are some tips on making a safe password:
- Have a password that has at least eight characters (the longer your password is, the harder for criminals to guess or break), a combination of both upper and lower case letter with special keyboard symbols like @&^$%! . However, be careful in using these characters as they might be difficult to enter on foreign keyboards.
- A line of song that most people wouldn’t associate with you.
- Your friend’s mother’s maiden name
- Or take the characters from each word of a sentence. Example: You don’t need to be handsome, you can have ‘ydntbh’.
7. Go Mobile!
Internetretailer.com quantified that the combined monthly visits the entire 378 US Mobile 500 merchants grew to 3.03 billion in 2015 while mobile monthly unique visitors grew massively to 964.7 million. This increase in mobile shopping has lead more retailers to have an investment for mobile apps, which can offer better features better than a mobile browser. Sure, there is no real deal in getting reluctant on shopping using a mobile device. One great trick is to use apps that are provided directly by huge retailers. You may use the app directly to purchase what you want. This way safer and convenient.
8. Never Use Public Computers in Buying Things Online
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you it’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases, but we still will. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.
What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door.
9. Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wifi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set up a free one with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, if you’re willing to put up with the ads, or pay $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year to skip the ads. There’s even an iOS app version of Hotspot Shield, but that will cost you $.99 per month or $9.99 a year after the first seven days.
By the way, now is not a good time to try out a hotspot you’re unfamiliar with. Stick to known networks, even if they’re free, like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores that is powered by AT&T. Look for the network named “attwifi,” then open a browser to click into the “walled garden” to get final access. You can also find free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations, not to mention libraries and local cafes.
10. Count the Cards
Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift every year, and this year will be no exception. Stick to the source when you buy one; scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them.
11. Know What’s Too Good to be True
Once again, McAfee has compiled a Twelve Scams of Christmas list, all things to be aware of while shopping. The “coupon scam” offers of a free product with purchase, in particular, an iPad (a very coveted gadget at any holiday) or even holiday job offers. Many of these “offers” will come in via social media. Beware even of your friends, who might innocently forward such a thing. Be very wary even if you get a message from friend claiming he or she has been robbed, especially a friend overseas looking for money to be wire transferred, unless you absolutely can confirm it by talking to him or her personally. Skepticism in most cases can go a long way toward saving you from a stolen card number.