Norton UK Blog
8 Steps to Safer Online Shopping
We all love a good bargain, and the internet is a handy tool for comparing products and services and potentially making savings in both time and money. According to the Centre for Retail Research ecommerce is the most rapidly expanding retail market in Europe, and the British are the biggest-spending online shoppers: UK online sales grew by 15.8 per cent last year (2014), from £38.83bn in 2013 to £44.97bn.
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.
Create separate, strong passwords for each online account. 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.
- Keep the spending limit low so that any potential losses are restricted.
- Never key in your PIN on any online site.
- 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.
- Look for trust marks on shopping sites – logos or badges that signify that the website meets certain security standards.
- Be careful to use only legitimate official apps for mobile banking.
5 Don’t swallow the 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 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.
- 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 fake websites
Phony 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.
Copycat sites aim to trick you into paying to renew or process official documents, when you could actually do this yourself for free or for a lower charge. Consumer rights body Which gives useful advice on how to spot a copycat website.
7. Be WiFi aware
Make sure your connection is secure. Protect your home Wi-Fi with a strong, unique password.
Avoid shopping online from public computers such as those in internet cafes or with unencrypted WiFi 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, then log out
Take a 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. Don’t assume you’ll be logged out automatically once a transaction has been processed.
Safer shopping is in the bag
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 fertile 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, ready for a little retail therapy?
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