3 Jun 2021

Tips for Safer Online Shopping

Online shopping has made it easier and convenient for consumers. However, most people are unaware of the dangers and risks that they may face while shopping online. This article is to highlight on what steps people should exercise to stay safe when shopping online. It's important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online.

You can first check my article on basics of password security.

Choosing where to buy

You should shop from well known, trusted, reputable websites and brands. Legit online shops do not guarantee 100% protection against fraud or cyber attacks but they pay more attention to security measures and protecting customers’ sensitive data.

Do some research first about an online shop and ask around for someone you know might have experienced their services or check on social media, blogs forums etc. for reviews from other customers.

Go for online shops that have been around for some time, like for at least half a year. The website should provide information that identifies the online shop/company including address and contact information.

Take your time and read the Terms and Conditions, Guarantee, Privacy and Return / Refund policies.

How to tell if payments are safe on the website

Before filling in sensitive data such as personal information or debit/credit card details, make sure that you’re on a secure connection, otherwise, your data can be accessible to anyone who knows how to get it.

The website URL should start with “https” instead of “http”. The “s” in “https” means that the website has a valid Secure Sockets Layer installed (short for “SSL“). This is a method to ensure that the data sent and received is encrypted and the online transaction isn’t intercepted in transit.

Another method is to look for the icon of a closed padlock. It’s usually located on the left of the web address, but it depends on the browser. This indicates that you are visiting an encrypted site and the connection is secure. The padlock symbol should appear in the browser window frame and be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself, this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.

Amazon website

If you want to find out more information about the SSL certificate, you can click on the padlock icon.

amazon ssl certificate
www.amazon.com certificate

More online shopping tips

Beware of phishing threats

These are methods to trick you into giving confidential information, like your credentials, credit card details etc.

Phishing works through emails that appear to have been sent by a legitimate person or company, such as Amazon, PayPal or bank. They try to lure you into handing over passwords, credit card details. This happens by following a link contained in the e-mail which when clicked opens a webpage identical to the legitimate site requesting you to enter sensitive information.

Do not open links from emails, you have to manually type in the address in your browser. You can hover your mouse on the links in emails and the URL will appear on the bottom of the page, usually bottom left.

It's encouraged to use a dedicated email account only for online shopping. You can also open a bank account which you deposit money that you want to use for online transactions. This way if your debit/credit card details are compromised the loss will be minimal.

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) can offer extra shield when you want to safely navigate online. It’s a network that uses the Internet public infrastructure to connect to a private network and can be used to hide a user’s online activity from attackers.
A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across the VPN may, therefore, benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.

Don't tell everything

When you can, don't give up much information about yourself. No online shopping store is going to need your social security number or your birthday to do business. But if a bad-guy gets them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage.
  • Do not use public computers like in internet caf├ęs for online shopping, internet banking etc. The computers may not be secure enough, may have key loggers, be vulnerable (unpatched) or be monitored.
  • Do not use public WiFi. You can use a VPN when on public networks. It's advisable to use mobile data than public WiFi.
  • Always keep your computer’s operating system and software updated.
  • Install a good antivirus from a reliable security company and keep it updated.
  • When making a payment use a secure payment site such as PayPal – avoid transferring money directly into their bank account; and also to hide/protect your credit card details.
  • Always log out of sites into which you have been logged on and always close the browser after logging out. Simply closing your browser without logging out is not enough to ensure privacy.
  • Check credit card and bank statements carefully after payment to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction.

Something gone wrong?

Your first port of call if something goes wrong with an online transaction should be the retailer. If you need to report identity theft or fraud, each country has a local service where you can report the issue.

Do you enjoy doing your shopping online?
image credit: picserver.org