Online shopping has made life infinitely easier for all of us. You can purchase any number of products from a wide range of retailers without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Forget about hopping from store to store searching for the perfect gift and the best prices, fighting with the crowd to get the items you need, or waiting in line for ages. These are all things of the past.
Now you have everything at your fingertips and shopping can be done entirely through taps and clicks. All you need is a smart device, a good internet connection and you’re ready to start your online shopping spree. It doesn’t get easier than this. But as fun and convenient as it may be, online shopping also comes with risks that many people are not aware of.
So, if you don’t want your shopping session to end in utter disaster, it’s a good idea to take some precautions before making an online purchase. Here are some tips that will help you stay on the safe side.
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Only trust secure websites
Not all e-commerce websites are created equal, especially in terms of security. So, before you start adding product after product to your online cart, make sure that the site you’re on is legitimate and secure. This should always be your first thought when accessing any shopping site. It’s easy to find out if a site is secure or not. Just look for the padlock icon next to the website’s name in the URL bar. Websites that display this symbol are encrypted, ensuring that your information is going to be transferred securely.
Opt for credit card payments
If you can choose between debit card payments and credit card payments, always opt for the latter. The reason why credit card payments are a better option for online payments is that they are not directly linked to your bank account. If someone gets hold of your debit card information and makes a fraudulent transaction, it’s going to be much more difficult to get your money back. Credit cards on the other hand provide better security and if your money gets stolen, you’re more likely to get a refund quickly. That’s why it’s best to stick to credit cards or payment services to keep your info and money safe when shopping online.
Don’t use public networks
Online shopping gives you the possibility to shop anytime, anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you should. You might be tempted to sit down at a café and use their public Wi-Fi network to do some online shopping, but that would be a bit reckless. Public networks are completely unsecured, making them a thriving environment for hackers. Any information that is transferred through public network risks being intercepted by the wrong people, so the chances of having your banking details or other sensitive data stolen are pretty high. That’s why you should always use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi or avoid connecting to unsecured networks if you don’t have this option.
Create strong passwords
The simplest way to make sure hackers and cybercriminals can’t gain access to your personal information while shopping online is to create strong passwords on every site. We know, it’s the oldest trick in the book, but it’s as effective as ever. Think of passwords as the first line of defense against cyber-attacks. You have to make them strong enough to keep intruders out and protect your private data. A password generator can help you come up with unique strong passwords, so you can rest assured no one will be able to break into your accounts.
Secure your devices
If you use multiple devices for online shopping, you have to make sure all of them are secure. There are various ways you can do that. First of all, you should install security software on all the devices you own to block viruses and other potential threats. Secondly, you should set up a different passcode for every device, and log off or lock the screen when you’re no longer using them. Also, after using an e-commerce website, make sure to log out of your account and skip the remember my password or banking details option every time.
Watch out for red flags
The digital world is filled with threats, from hackers and cybercriminals to malware and government surveillance. That’s why consumers have to keep their eyes wide open every step of their shopping journey. If you’re well aware of the hazards, you’ll be able to spot the red flags in due time and avoid unpleasant surprises. One of the things you should look out for are suspicious links. Never click on random links to dream deals that you receive through message or email. Also, don’t open emails from someone you don’t know or from sites you’ve never visited. Most of the time, these emails are sent by scammers trying to trick you into giving them your personal details, so it’s best to have a healthy dose of skepticism.
Don’t give away too much information
When shopping online, most websites will ask you for some basic details to create an account and conduct transactions. You’ll have to give them this information to make a purchase, but don’t share any other details with them. If some of the fields are optional, don’t fill them out. Also, if they’re asking for additional details such as social security number, it’s a clear sign you should do your shopping elsewhere.
Be smart about app downloads
Most retailers also provide apps to make the shopping process smoother and more convenient for consumers. But this also makes it easier for malicious actors to steal your data. If you do want to download a shopping app, do it from trusted sources like the App Store or Android Market. And after you’ve downloaded the app and you want to install it, pay special attention to permissions requests. If they seem unreasonable, don’t accept them.