Online shopping is one of the world’s favorite pastimes. Global eCommerce sales are expected to rise to $12 trillion in 2020 alone. But how safe is it?
Buying online offers great convenience. You can buy anything you like online and all it takes is a few clicks and a bit of a wait and the items that you order will arrive at your home address. What’s not to love about that?
But things can go wrong when you are buying online. We’ve all heard horror stories about things going wrong with purchases. Items not turning up when they have been ordered, or the wrong item getting delivered. Or, worse still, your online accounts getting hacked and money gets stolen from your bank account because of a scam.
What can you do to protect yourself when you shop online?
Don’t click ‘buy now’ until you have read our handy guide on how to shop safely online/
Shop With Brands You Know And Love
Shopping on the high street offers some security in the fact that you can walk into a store and see the stock in front of you, pick it up, then head to the register and pay for it. Online shopping doesn’t tend to offer this security.
Some businesses are just set up to steal credit card details.
You should make sure that you have heard of the business that you are buying from at least. If they have a high street store, then this will at least offer some security that you are ordering from a genuine company.
Research The Business
If you have not heard of the company before, then it’s time to do some detective work. Does the company have a social media presence? What are customers saying on social media about the company? Do they have a large following? Check with the Better Business Bureau, do they have a history of reports for scams?
Take your research even further by getting in touch with the company. If they have an email, drop them an email. If they have a phone number, call them. If they don’t provide any details about how they can be got in touch with, then this should be a major red flag.
Beware of Rock Bottom Prices
If the prices that they are offering their products seem to be too good to be true, then this is probably because they are. Companies that have a huge shipment of the latest smartphones at rock bottom prices often turn out to be fake and they don’t even own the stock that they are trying to sell you. The website may only be in existence as a way of getting your personal information from you.
Steer clear of even attempting to buy from this type of website. Ask yourself how a company that is unheard of can afford to sell a high-end product that everyone else has advertised for considerably higher prices so cheaply. The answer is always that they can’t and they are not actually doing so.
Read Impartial Reviews
Reading reviews on the company that you are buying from is important, but think about where you are reading the reviews. If they are on the company’s website, then they could be doctored to look better than they are.
Stick to reading impartial reviews on websites that are not owned by the company. For example, these Amazon Reviews are all impartial and you’ll get a better understanding of what people really think about the business.
Pay Using a Credit Card
Pay for your items using a credit card. This will give you a greater degree of protection if anything goes wrong. In addition to the consumer protection than buying using a credit card offers, you should also be aware that if anyone racks up any unauthorized charges on your credit card, then regulations state that you won’t have to pay it while the card company investigates.
Use a Virtual Credit Card
Some banks and credit card companies offer a handy tool that acts as an online version of your credit card; a virtual version. The card issuer will randomly generate a number that is linked to your account, this can be used anywhere online and you can decide when the number will expire.
It may be best if you generate a new number any time you order anything online, or whenever you shop with a new online retailer. That way, anyone who tries to use the number that you put in will find that they are out of luck.
Check Your Credit Card Statements Often
If you are someone that ignores their credit card statements, stop doing this. Check your statements for any signs of fraudulent charges at least once each week. You could also set up account alerts that will let you know about any charges.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
With some basic tech know-how and the wi-fi password for the public network at your local coffee shop, someone will be able to intercept what you are looking at online. This could include looking at your browsing history, reading your emails, or accessing your passwords.
When you shop online, you usually need to give out information that a criminal would like to steal from you. This could include your name and your credit card information.
Use a VPN
If you have to shop online from a public network, you should use a virtual private network when doing so. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your device at the VPN server. Hackers nearby won’t be able to intercept it even if they have access to the wi-fi network that you are currently on.
Use a Strong Password
When setting up an account with a new online retailer, you should ensure that you use a password that you have never used before. If you use the same login credentials for every account online, then all it would take would be for one account to get compromised and all of your accounts will be accessible.
Make sure that you use a strong password. This should include a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and passwords. You should avoid words that can be found in the dictionary. Don’t use personal information that other people can either guess or find out easily such as your favorite color, your kid’s names, or your birthday.
Check out The Security Of The Site
Before you jump in headfirst and buy from any online retailer, you should first check that the site is secure. You may have seen that there is a small padlock symbol in the corner of your URL field on your web browser. This signifies that the website that you are on has privacy protection installed. This is referred to as ‘ secure sockets layer’. You can also check that the website address starts with ‘https’ – this stands for ‘hypertext transfer protocol secure’. This type of website hides the data that you share, especially on pages that ask for financial information or passwords. If you don’t see the lock or the ‘s’ at the end of HTTP then the website is not secure and you shouldn’t enter your card details.
Look Out For Any Email Scams
If you get a great offer in an email and it asks you to click on a link, employ caution. It may well be a phishing scam designed to steal your personal information. This type of email could appear to come from a site that you already know and trust. However, instead of clicking through on the link in the email, visit the website directly and see if you can find the special offer that way. If there is no offer on the site, then it is probably safe to assume that the email was a hoax and wasn’t from the company that is claimed to be.
Only Give Out Necessary Information
There is some information that you will never need to give out on an eCommerce website. If you are asked for any very personal details, see this as a red flag.
Keep Transaction Details Safe
Once you have completed the transaction, be sure, and keep emails, order confirmations, and receipts safe. If you have any issues with the transaction, you will be able to help the merchant resolve the issue with the right details.
Take Action If You Don’t Get Your Order
If you don’t receive your order, get in touch with the company. If they turn out to be a fake company, get in touch with your credit card company. Usually, they will remove the charge from your statement,
Report The Company
Finally, if you suspect that a business that you have attempted to buy items from is not legitimate, then you should notify your credit card company about any charges that you have had and close your account with the company. You could also report the company to the authorities.