Technology has brought us to the point where we go on shopping sprees at the comfort of our homes. In our beds, on our couches, basically just anywhere by going online. Let’s face it, there is every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind- boggling. Don’t even get me started on the convenience. With a little fee or even none, you have your items at your doorstep! Shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers. But what about the bad guys who lay in wait to swindle you out of your sign-in credentials and even credit card information by pretending to be a real website, or even an online bank?
This though should not keep you from shopping online. You simply need some common sense and practical advice. Follow these basic guidelines and you can shop online with confidence. Here are tips for staying safe online
Avoid Too Good Deals
Always be on the watch out on what is too good to be true while shopping. Beware even of your friends, who might innocently forward such a thing. Be very wary even if you get a message from friend claiming he or she has been robbed, especially a friend overseas looking for money to be wire transferred, unless you absolutely can confirm it by talking to him or her personally. Skepticism in most cases can go a long way toward saving you from a stolen card number.
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed – at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser. Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and Aliexpress and that these online sites carry everything under the sun. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. The sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your information.
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.)
If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
Protect your Computer
Swindlers do not just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program. Make sure you are not a victim.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Making sure you utilize uncrackable passwords is never more important than when banking and shopping online.
There’s no real need to be any more nervous about shopping on a mobile device than online. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Jumia, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the website.
Avoid Public Terminals
It is not bad to use a public computer to make purchases. However, always remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email. What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door.
Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set up a free one .
By the way, now is not a good time to try out a hotspot you’re unfamiliar with. Stick to known networks, even if they’re free.