Online shopping has given us the convenience of buying everything from clothing and groceries to TVs and furniture from the comfort of our homes, or anywhere else for that matter. The problem is that this convenience can put you at risk of fraud or identity theft, especially during peak shopping seasons when we tend to let our guard down.
Don’t get caught by hackers and scammers. Here’s our roundup of the best tips for safe online shopping:
Purchase from Reputable Retailers
The best way to ensure secure online shopping is to only buy from trusted online retailers that you have purchased from in the past, or which come highly recommended by friends and family. If you find a good deal on a lesser known website, do your homework to make sure it’s legit. It’s always a good idea to Google the site before making a purchase to read reviews and ratings from other people.
Make Sure Websites Are Secure
You should only shop on secure websites. When visiting a website, make sure the URL begins with ‘https’ and not ‘http’ to ensure that any data you enter is encrypted. Check for the green “lock” icon on the toolbar, as well as for valid security certificates. Also, make sure the website accepts major credit cards and uses secure payment gateways so that you are covered in the event of a dispute or fraudulent transaction.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer, avoid online shopping and banking over public Wi-Fi hotspots like those at the airport and coffee shops. These connections are not secure, making it easy for hackers to intercept and steal private information, including login details for banks, social media and email accounts.
Be Wary of Email Scams
It isn’t difficult for fraudsters to create emails that look and sound as if they are from a reputable website. These scam emails usually present an incredible offer, accompanied by links or “coupons” that will take you to a fake website. These websites may infect your computer with malware, encourage you purchase items you will never receive, or worse, steal your banking information to allow scammers to make fraudulent transactions. The best thing to do is to manually enter the store’s website address in your browser or save it as a bookmark for quick access.
Keep Your Browser and Antivirus Software Up to Date
No matter which browser or antivirus software you use, make sure that they are kept up to date to protect you from the latest cyberattacks. If possible, use your browser’s “private mode” when shopping and banking to add an extra layer of security. Most browsers now come with built-in tools to enhance security, such as tracking protection, so make sure these features are turned on. One of the safest, most secure mobile web browsers for iOS and Android phones is Firefox Focus, which wipes browsing history after every use and doesn’t store cookies or other personal data.
Use Stronger Passwords
Avoid short, simple passwords that include your basic information, such as your initials, date of birth or your pet’s name, as those are pretty easy for hackers to get, either through simple guessing or using password generation tools. An 8-digit password consisting of a combination of upper and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers is the safest bet. It’s also a good idea to use different passwords for different websites.
In general, remember the golden rule of online shopping: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.