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How To

The 8 Steps to Safer Online Shopping


Nothing beats the feeling of grabbing that great bargain online. More and more we are quenching that thirst for the ultimate deal with online shopping, and the internet is a handy tool for comparing products and services and potentially making savings in both time and money.

However, there are a few pitfalls it pays to consider before starting your online shopping spree. Cybercriminals use a lot of different methods to exploit online payments, aiming to get hold of your personal data and lighten your wallet, or simply make money out of you by persuading you to click links. Follow our top tips for safer online shopping, and you’ll reduce the risks of paying out more than you intend when buying online.

1.Protect your devices

Before you begin browsing for those bargains, make sure you’ve got a comprehensive and up-to-date security package installed on your family’s PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Download web browser and operating system updates when prompted. Updates are sent out to patch vulnerabilities identified in earlier versions, so don’t put your devices at unnecessary risk by ignoring them.

2.Create strong passwords

Always create separate, strong passwords for each online account you hold. That way, if one is compromised, your other accounts shouldn’t be affected. Strong passwords should contain a variety of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.

Avoid using easily guessed words or numbers such as pet or family names, phone numbers or significant dates like anniversaries.
 


3. Use a credit card

Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card, as it won’t directly take money from your own account and you’ll have more protection against a fraudulent transaction.
Ensure two-factor verification has been set up and keep the spending limit low so that any potential losses are restricted.
Never key in your PIN on any online site and check your credit card statements carefully. Contact your bank immediately if you suspect your card is being used without your authority.
Make sure your bank has current contact phone numbers for you so that you can be contacted immediately if any unusual account transactions are detected.

4. Ensure your session is secure


Make sure the shopping site URL begins with ‘https’, or that the browser bar contains the locked padlock symbol or is green. These signs mean your information is encrypted and therefore harder for a hacker to access.

Only use sites that you know and trust, or have been recommended by people you know. If in doubt search the internet for customer reviews or information on the site.

Read the seller’s privacy policy and find out how your personal information will be used. Reputable companies should be open about the information they collect and what they do with it.

Look for trust marks on shopping sites – logos or badges that signify that the website meets certain security standards.
 


5 Keep clear of spam

Be on the lookout for phishing efforts and questionable offers.

Don’t click on dubious email or text message links or open attachments from an unknown source. They might take you to a site that asks you to reveal personal information, or that puts malware on your device.

Don’t be tempted by deals. Beware of too-cheap promotions and ‘free’ offers – they can be costly bait to reel in inattentive shoppers, commonly asking you to ‘like’ a social post, click a link or fill in an online form to be ‘in with a chance to win’. Instead, you’re probably helping to make scammers money and giving them useful information about you.

Don’t respond to requests asking you to ‘verify’ or ‘confirm’ banking details, passwords or usernames and ignore texts, emails or pop-ups telling you you’ve won a free gift. Clicking on these could infect your device with malware.

Never access shopping sites via an email or text link – always type the web address into your browser, or save commonly used sites in your favourites.

6. Beware of the fakes

Fake shopping sites can be hard to tell apart from the genuine ones, and even legitimate sites can be hijacked. Check the site address carefully for subtle differences, like minor errors in spelling or grammar.

These fake sites often rely on hasty shoppers mistyping the genuine web addresses of popular websites, so slow down and check what you’ve typed. Otherwise you could end up viewing unsavoury content or infecting your device with malware.
 


7. Be Wi-Fi aware

Make sure your connection is secure. Protect your home Wi-Fi with a strong, unique password. If you’re connecting to free Wi-Fi hotspots when on the go, always use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect any financial transactions you make.

Avoid shopping online from public computers such as those in internet cafes or with unencrypted Wi-Fi connections. Don’t ever enter personal details while on a public computer, and never leave the computer unattended while logged on.

8. Save the evidence and log out

Take note of reference numbers and confirmation emails so that you have proof of purchase. If you can’t print out the necessary information, take a screenshot and email it to yourself.

Make sure you log out of any online session. Don’t assume you’ll be logged out automatically once a transaction has been processed.

Safer shopping in your wallet

Online shopping can be a convenient and enjoyable way to see what’s on offer, make comparisons, find great deals and buy things that the local corner shop doesn’t stock. However, it’s also a favourite hunting ground for cybercriminals, so you need to be prepared. Taking the steps above should help keep your money and your personal information out of the hands of cybercrooks while you shop – so you don’t get more than you bargained for.

Now, enjoy a little retail therapy safely.
 

What are the 8 things to do that will make you feel secure online?