These days we all buy online. It’s unavoidable. Times have changed and so have our shopping habits.
But we rarely think about the consequences of entering our personal and financial information into websites, and we rarely consider what could happen if things go wrong.
Whilst you can find a lot of advice online, most of it seems to suggest that the web is the wild west and you should only shop from Amazon or eBay. This clearly is not practical, and here we discuss the basic steps you should take to stay safe and still have a rich online shopping experience.
There is a lot you can do for yourself to ensure the safety of your identity and financial details online.
First off, you should always make sure that the site you are using is transmitting data using what’s called SSL. There’s an easy way to check. Instead of the web address beginning http, it will begin https. In addition, there should be a locked padlock icon next to the address in the address bar of your browser. Never purchase unless you see the padlock.
Check the site policies before you buy. You don’t have to spend hours reading the fine print, but at least make sure that you understand the shipping policy, the return policy and have satisfied yourself that the business is legitimate by locating their physical address and a contact email.
Real businesses will always have these things.
Many sites will ask you to create an account in order to shop with them. Usually this is because they are going to store information about you and your purchase. It also helps you track your order. You should get into the habit of using secure passwords that are at least a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and special characters, like @, # or }.
And never re-use passwords.
It can be a real drag to remember multiple, complex passwords so nowadays you should always go for a password manager. A password manager is a browser plug-in that will handle your passwords for you. There are some excellent free password managers around now. In fact, Google Chrome browser even comes with a password manager built-in.
Stay Secure On The Go
Shopping as you are mobile is ubiquitous. There are a few hazards however.
Open Wifi Networks
Perhaps the greatest threat to your security when shopping on the go are open wifi networks. You should avoid connecting to these networks for anything other than casual web browsing. Wifi networks that have no security code leave the data transmitted between you and the online shop vulnerable to hackers. Your financial details can easily be revealed.
In these instances, you could use a VPN, but beware of the many false claims made by VPN providers – you are not suddenly rendered completely anonymous by using one.
Depending on your mobile contract, you can also try tethering your laptop to your phone and using your phone’s data connection. This is much more secure than using any public wifi.
Entering Card Details
Make sure you can’t be seen when entering your card details into any website. It’s all too easy to drop your guard in a busy place, but someone could well be watching. Keep an eye out for that security camera too…
Use a Credit Card
And finally, use a credit card in preference to a debit card.
As long as you are being financially responsible, a credit card is always the preferred option online. Credit card transactions are subject to more controls, and should your card be used fraudulently, you have more protection than if you had used a debit card.
Don’t be put off shopping online. You don’t have to go into battle with the modern day equivalent of a suit of armour – just pay attention to a few basic things are you’re good to go!