Online shopping can be addictive: the deals are plentiful and there are numerous stores to compare the prices. Close to 96% of people worldwide choose to do their shopping online every year. And, considering the ease to order anything online, do payment, and have the item delivered right to your doorstep, we can understand why. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about pickpockets in public space or even worse, fear getting infected with the deadly coronavirus. That being said, there are a lot of risks that come with online shopping. You have to be cautious that your personal and financial information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. So, how do you shop online and stay safe? Here are seven tips from experts.
Use Credit Card Not Debit Card
Shopping online can expose both your credit and debit cards to fraudulent activities. However, the governing laws applied to fraudulent use of your debit card are not as strict as those that apply to a credit card. If your credit card is used illegally and you fail to report the crime, the credit card company can charge you a personal fee of not more than $50, with some companies waiving the fee. A debit card, on the other hand, is linked to your bank account. If it gets compromised by an identity thief, you risk losing your entire bank account associated with that card, if you fail to report the crime immediately. What's more, even after reporting the theft, the bank may freeze your account while investigating the matter. Either way, you become affected in the long run. To reduce such risks and the inconveniences associated with using a debit card, stick to using a credit card or other payment services like PayPal.
Invest in a Reliable Security Solution
If you love shopping online, be sure to have an antivirus software installed. After installation, most people tend to put the software off so that it doesn’t update automatically, and this can make your PC vulnerable. If you choose to turn of automatic updates, remember to check regularly and ensure that it’s up to date. Even better, opt for the paid version that has extra security features like spam, spyware, and download protection. An antivirus software scans through every download and stops scammers from infiltrating your inbox. Even the experts can find themselves on the wrong side. For example, if they are not keen or are in a hurry and they accidentally click on some links that they weren't supposed to. So the more protected your laptop or computer is, the safer your online shopping.
Check for the ‘Lock’ Before Purchasing
Never trust a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed, since it helps protect your details. If the site has SSL, its URL should start with HTTPS, rather than HTTP. Additionally, check for a locked padlock icon at the left side of the URL in the status bar, although the position might vary depending on the browser you’re using. HTTPS has become standard for all sites, and you a site without the padlock icon means that sensitive information like passwords and credit card details are not secure. Most browsers will flag such pages as ''not secure.'' So, it’s best to stay away from such sites.
Use Familiar and Trusted Sites
Apart from using secure sites, you should always shop from reputable sites. Don’t get this wrong. It doesn’t mean that new and upcoming stores shouldn’t be trusted, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. There are major online shopping sites like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Zappos among others which have been used by millions of customers and you can trust them to keep your purchase information safe. Be on the look for sites using different top-level domains such as (.net rather than .com). You might be attracted by prices from those sites but you’ll not be aware of how they tricked you into giving out all your info.
Review the Privacy and Return Policies
Shopping online can be frustrating at times, especially when it comes to returning items. Before you click on the pay button, make sure you’ve gone through their privacy policies, understood and agreed to their terms. You don’t want to receive the wrong item and then realize there is no way of returning it.
Don’t Overshare Information
If you find an online shopping store asking for your Social Security number or your birthday, then you need to be wary of those sites. Whenever your information such as your credit card number lands in the hands of crooked people, they can do a lot of damage. The more you feed those scammers with extra information, the easier it becomes for them to steal your identity. Note that even major e-stores get breached all the time, hence you should always give the only necessary information.
Privatize Your Wi-Fi
Avoid using public Wi-Fi to do your online shopping. If you must, use a VPN (virtual private network) just to be safe. Additionally, if it’s a public hotspot, stick to the known networks and avoid others even if they’re free. When installing your home Wi-Fi, always go for trusted network providers with good reviews. Don’t be persuaded by any company just because they have enticing offers which might end up costing you a lot more.
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