Don’t you just love a good deal? Making a smart choice goes beyond saving money: it can lift your spirits and makes deal hunting a fun experience you can’t help repeating. And what better place to find exclusive offers than the bountiful world of the virtual malls?
The booming popularity of e-commerce is not surprising since there are millions of reasons for shopping online.The deals are alluring. The choices are mind-blowing. Shipping is fast and, often, free. What’s not to like?
Well, there is one thing that might get in your way. As people changed their attitudes and behaviour towards online purchases, so did cyber-thieves, making the growing number of shoppers their favourite target. According to a CIFAS report, 40,000 pieces of sensitive and financial information are traded through the black market every day – that’s 13.2 million a year!
Scary? Don’t worry, and don’t let it stop you from using your credit card. To shop with confidence, all you need is some common sense and these next guidelines to avoid risking your finances!
Here’s a comprehensive list of valuable tips on how to shop online safely:
Secure your PC before going online.
1. Tune up your defences using a strong firewall and either, antiphishing software or a powerful antivirus with an antiphishing feature. Keep in mind it needs to update continuously with the latest virus definitions for maximum efficiency.
2. Bring your browser up-to-date. Old and outdated browser versions have security issues that allow malicious websites to read or damage your files, get hold of your passwords or spread viruses, so it’s better to be prepared.
3. Update your Operating System. Updates are important since security breaches leave a vulnerable system at the mercy of hackers. It can be exploited to spread malware and steal your passwords, credit card numbers and all sorts of files you’d like to keep private.
Do your research, look for:
4. Trusted websites: check for the closed "padlock" icon or an "unbroken key" in the top or bottom window frame of your browser. If it’s not visible (as it happens with Mozilla Firefox), click on the domain name for details. The URL should start with "https:" to ensure the site uses a secure connection. Some websites also use the words “Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)” to indicate that you’re entering a secure area.
It’s a good idea to read the website's Privacy and Security Policies to make sure your information isn’t shared with a third party company that will nag you with unwanted e-mails or phone calls for their marketing purposes.
5. Reputable sellers:
- Look around the website and pay attention to details. Does the website look amateurish; are there frequent spelling or grammar mistakes?
- Does it have clearly posted information about shipping rates, return policies, warranties, and privacy protection? Can you find contact information easily, including telephone numbers?
- Check out the reviews, what are other shoppers or experts saying about the products or the seller? Don’t rely on only one source, you can find blogs with testimonials and product images with just one mouse-click.
6. Best payment methods: Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Cash, or Checks?
Safest option: pay using a credit card. In the US, if something goes wrong, you are protected under the Federal law and will only be charged for the first $50. However, if you use a debit card your account could be overdrawn before you even notice the fraud. In the UK, the Consumer Credit Card act states your credit card company is equally responsible along with the retailer for the good or service they’re providing. What’s more, asking for a chargeback allows you to reverse your credit card transaction.
Take extra safety measures, too: print out or save a copy of the confirmation message you receive after purchase describing the item you ordered, its price, as well as the page showing company name, postal address, phone number, and legal terms, including return policy.
Also, you can check you bank statements regularly for unfamiliar items or entries you don’t recognize.
Be wise, think twice.
7. Be skeptical! Identity thieves will do just about anything to get hold of your credit card number including making up unbelievable deals! If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
8. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your Inbox: use a spam filter to sort fake e-mails inviting you to update an account with information which has expired, been compromised or lost and urging you to immediately resend it to the company. Legitimate businesses don’t ask for sensitive information via e-mail.
9. Here’s the golden rule: don’t respond to any request for financial information! Again, don’t click on any link embedded within a suspicious email and always call the retailer or financial institution to verify your account status before divulging any information. Legitimate financial institutions will never ask you to submit your account details via e-mail.
And...that about wraps it up. From one shopping addict to another, my advice to you is to use your intuition and don’t rush into things. Do your homework before you click the ‘Buy’ button because remember: knowledge is power!
Luckily, I haven’t had a bad experience when shopping online, yet. Have you? Share your story with us!