More and more people have turned to online shopping to buy their needs especially now during the pandemic. While online shopping offers convenience to buyers, not all transactions are safe, here are some tips that can help.†
Do you love online shopping? Actually, you’re not the only one. Billions of people around the world have now switched to shopping online rather than go to the shops personally. With online shopping, what’s not to like? The selections are better and the prices are lower!
Aside from that, many feel that shopping online is safe, shipping doesn’t take that long and don’t charge that much and it gives huge profit to online sellers. Since there is an ongoing pandemic, most people want to avoid human interaction so shopping online in the comfort of their homes is considered convenient and secure. But, is it really?
Online Shopping Isn’t Always Safe
There are actually bad guys online who are involved in doing online crimes and victimizing people. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) of the FBI, in† 2019, the most number of crimes committed in at least 25 states was connected to online shopping. These crimes are either “no delivery of goods bought” or “no payment sent for items purchased online”.
Relax and calm yourself down. Although it sounds disturbing, these occurrences shouldn’t prevent you from doing your shopping online. All you have to do is be vigilant, add some common sense and listen to helpful advice. To ensure a†safe and secure online shopping experience, here’s a guide you can follow.
Only Use Trustworthy Websites - Shop only at well-known, familiar and trusted websites. Don’t immediately buy from the first search result you get from search engines because that may not be the most secure source. If you’ve already heard about the site or received good feedback from others, then it’s less likely to be unsafe. Some of the trusted or authority sites for online shopping are Amazon, eBay and others. However, other popular retailers also have their own online shopping sites like Home Depot, Target and Best Buy to name a few. That’s why you must double-check for wrong spellings or sites that use .net instead of .com, those are just some of the red flags to watch out for. The products displayed on these sites may seem appealing but catching your eye is just an easy way for these tricksters to get your personal and financial information.
Search for the Lock - One of the important online shopping tips and tricks you should keep in mind is to be on the lookout of the lock. Don’t ever use your credit card on sites that don’t have SSL on them. SSL or “secure sockets layer” keeps your information safe and secure through encryption. How do you identify sites with an SSL? Just find the “https” at the site URL on your browser but if it’s only an “http”, then better move on to the next site. Another identifier of a secure online shopping website is the “locked padlock” icon which you can find on the left side of the site URL or just below the status bar. It all depends on the type of browser you are using. HTTPS is now becoming the standard for almost all sites because if they don’t have it on their URL, Google Chrome will flag them. So if the website you are using has an HTTPS on its URL, then you are safe.
Avoid Oversharing - Another useful tip on how to shop online safely is by not revealing too much personal information. If you are planning to†buy online refurbished phones from a website that requires your credit card number or PIN, birthday or Social Security Number then it can be dangerous on your end. When your credit card or bank details reach online scammers, they can use your identity and use your money for purchases or worse, steal it. As much as possible avoid sharing your personal details, there’s a possibility that major sites’ security can get breached too so be careful.
Always Review Your Bank Statements - Bank statements can now be checked online, so go to your bank’s websites and monitor them regularly. Check the transactions made using your checking account, credit and debit card through the electronic statements. If you see any irregularities or any charges made into your account without you doing the purchases, then report immediately to the bank and track those transactions. If the worst case scenario takes place and your account has been compromised, file a report to the bank involved and trace the crook with their help. Request help on how you can lock your account and prevent the same incident from happening again.
Use Strong Passwords - How strong are the passwords you are using in your accounts and how often do you change them? Creating strong passwords is one of the online shopping tips and tricks you shouldn’t neglect. An average online user changes passwords at least a few times a year and some even do only when they receive security notifications. Most people really don’t due to complacency and laziness. But if you shop online frequently, all the more you should always change your passwords. Make your password hard to decipher by adding symbols, numbers, capital and lowercase letters.
Keep your anti-malware tools in check - For maximum protection and to keep a safe and secure online shopping experience, be sure to keep your anti-malware tools up to date. Do you have anti-virus software installed in your computer? Watch out for scans and updates on your antivirus program because they are for your own good. There are also some security sites that offer protection against phishing attacks from websites, phishing scams and spam. Phishing is very dangerous because they copy a legit website by sending you an email and pretend to give you something or some sort of reward and then lets you log in using your username and passwords. This then gives them access to your Paypal Accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
Try to avoid connecting to Public WiFi - When you do online shopping and connect to a public WiFi, only use those that are well-known networks. Some good examples of public hotspots you can trust are Barnes & Noble stores or Starbucks Coffee Shops. But if you feel that you can’t avoid them and still have a possibility of using them, then at least use a VPN as a layer of protection for your personal details and logins.
Don’t shop in public - So you like working in coffee shops nearby and even shop online while you’re out. Add extra care and take a good look at your surroundings. Are there plenty of people beside you, around or at the back? They could easily take a peek at your laptop while you input details like credit card information, your card PIN, etc.As much as possible, only use websites that already have your personal details saved so that you don’t need to keep inputting them when you are out and about.
Use your Mobile Phone - A modern and more convenient way on how to shop online safely is through the use of smartphones. Several online shops have their own mobile applications already nowadays so you can easily install them on your mobile phone. So instead of visiting their websites on your computer or laptop, you can simply open these apps on your phone wherein your personal info are already stored. The best thing about online shopping using your phone is you can do it anywhere, whether you are driving, in a store or any public place, it’s safer because you can use mobile data and since the screen is small, there’s little chance that others can peek into sensitive information.
Take advantage of Mobile Payment Apps - Instead of using credit cards, why not use mobile payment apps? Some good examples are Apple Pay and Google Pay. Phone-based payments are now being accepted in major stores and online shops. These apps are easy to use because all that is required to make successful transactions are your face, passcode and fingerprints.
Check the seller’s profile - As an online shopper, take your own initiative of protecting yourself from online scammers. Check the profiles of the online sellers, read the reviews on their page or in the apps, gather customer feedback and testimonials from Yelp, Google, etc. You can also check the scam tracker and online directory from the Better Business Bureau before giving out your personal and banking details to any online shop. If you don’t trust the online reviews because they might be fake, ask your close friends about the shop and seller you want to purchase from and what their experience is from them. You can even go as far as calling the seller before making orders to know what their return policies are and what to do in case you experience future issues with your purchases.
What to Do In Case You Get Scammed
If you are new when it comes to online shopping, there’s a possibility that you might get scammed especially if you are not equipped with the right knowledge and don’t know what the do’s and don’ts are. In case you were not able to have a safe and secure online shopping experience, in other words, you were scammed, don’t feel humiliated.
Take immediate action and complain to the seller. If your problem is ignored and you did not get the solution that you need, file a report to the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission or seek help from the attorney general in your state. But that only works if you live in the United States. Find out what steps you need to undertake if you are in a different country.