For most people online shopping has become the norm.
Our busy schedules prevent us from trekking to the mall every time we need something, so instead we visit online retailers to fulfill our shopping needs.
But, not all online shopping destinations are created equal, and while many sites are trustworthy and legitimate, there are a number of fake online retailers that are just waiting to rip you off.
Luckily, a little online shopping savvy can go a long way to protecting you, your money and your identity.
Read through our online shopping rules below to keep yourself safe online.
- Stick to sites that you know & trust. Instead of starting your online shopping with a search engine, begin at a trusted retailer like Amazon, Target, Lowe’s or Macy’s. Search engines can lead you to places that are not trustworthy, especially if you venture past the first page or two of search results. Also, check the spelling of the site’s name (Amazon.com versus Amazn.com*). Many “copycat” sites try to get your money by looking “familiar”, and check the top-level domain as well (Amazon.com versus Amazon.net*). *These are fictitious examples.
- Use credit cards. Credit cards tend to be the safest option for online shopping because you have recourse. If an ordered item is never delivered or you find fraudulent charges on your card, the credit card company will work with you to remedy those issues and get you your money back. But, if you use a debit card or give access to your bank account, it can be a lot more challenging to get your money back after you fall prey to a scam. Check your statements regularly, and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
- Keep a paper trail. Whenever you make purchases online, be sure to save any and all documentation that you receive via email in an email folder or, better yet, print hard copies of receipts, terms of sale, product descriptions, and any emails that you exchange with the retailer. Again, this will be helpful and necessary should you find yourself the target on an online shopping scam.
- Only shop with the “lock”. Any time you’re about to make an online purchase, look for the lock. Make sure that the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You can determine if it does because an SSL url will begin with https:// (instead of http://). Typically, a little lock icon will also appear next to the site’s url or in the status bar; another indication of a secure site.
- Shut down your machine. Do you typically leave your computer running and connected to the Internet 24/7? While that may seem like no big deal to you, it means that you’re leaving your machine open to cybercriminals all day and night. This gives hackers the opportunity to infest your system with malware and commit cybercrimes. Instead, after making a purchase, turn off your computer and protect yourself and your money!
- Don’t overshare! Only fill out the necessary (i.e. “starred”) information when making on online purchase. No online retailer needs your birth date, social security number, or other unnecessary personal data to complete your transaction. Don’t make it easy for online criminals, instead be cautious, don’t over share, and you’ll protect yourself from identity theft.
- Use a secure connection. Don’t conduct your online shopping while using unsecured public WiFi. This is an open invitation to hackers, peeping Toms, and identity theft. Instead, wait to make online purchases from a secure network like your home or place of work.
If you want to further protect yourself, your money and your identity while shopping online, consider getting a VPN. For more details about how a Virtual Private Network can improve your online experience, visit Ghost Path.