SECURE ONLINE SHOPPING
The internet is a rich resource of a wide variety of goods and services, which can easily be purchased with a few mouse clicks or by tapping our fingers, wherever we are and whenever we want.
Freedom to shop online is at our fingertips. However, with freedom comes responsibility.
As an online shopper, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are protected when we transact in the online environment, be it on: (1) the merchant’s own website; (2) an e-marketplace or (3) a social networking site.
Following are some tips before shopping online and completing your transaction:
1. Always place orders from a secure connection
If your computer isn’t protected from potentially malicious software, your financial information and passwords are at risk from being stolen Ensure that the computer you are using has an updated anti-virus and anti-malware software program, and an enabled personal firewall.
Use a computer that is not for public use – preferably your own computer/laptop.
If you’re shopping online while using a wireless network, it needs to be encrypted so someone who is lurking outside the house can’t collect your information. Avoid making any financial transactions when using a public network, as you may not know if it’s compromised.
Some merchants require registration prior to purchase on their website. Only fill-up the necessary/required data fields and ensure that the webpage is secure.
Log off from the merchant’s site and the internet browser after each use.
Delete the browsing history in your computer once the purchase is done.
Keep a documentation of your online purchases through print copies/screenshots for reference until receipt of your product.
2. Know the merchant and their reputation
Check the merchant’s web address or URL for correctness. Make sure that it is the merchant’s real website. Be careful in misspelling the address to avoid being misdirected to a bogus merchant’s website.
In the case of online marketplaces/social networking sites, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between a trustworthy merchant from an unscrupulous one (usually using fictitious names) selling non-existent or substandard products or services. There are sites that have, fortunately, taken steps to protect their buyers.
Before accepting sellers, these sites first verify the identity of their prospective sellers. They also have a policy for dispute resolution between buyers and sellers.
3. Avoid offers that look unbelievable
Any website that promises too much at too low a price is suspicious. If the price is too low, consider whether the items are actually the brand as shown or a cheap substitute, if the item will work, if you will be able to return damaged goods – or if the merchant is earning extra income by selling your financial information.
Disreputable online stores – like their brick and mortar counterparts, may run an absurdly low price offer and then claim the item is out of stock, to try to sell you something else in a classic “bait and switch” scam.
4. Don’t use a store that requires more information than necessary to process the sale.
Apart from some basic information such as the method of payment, shipping address, telephone number, and email address, if the merchant requests other information, walk away. You never want to give them your bank account information, social security information, or driver’s license number.
Some companies ask questions about your interests, but those are optional and you should be cautious about providing the information
5. Create a password for the site that’s unique.
You will often be asked to create an account with a password when you make a purchase. Usually, you can choose not to do this, and unless you will use the e-store frequently, don’t create an account. If you do want an account, make sure to use a strong and unique password
Use a strong password (combination of upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols) upon registration with the online merchant. Keep it confidential.
6. Look for the padlock.
Before entering any personal or credit card info onto a shopping site look to see if the web address shows a closed padlock icon; HTTPS and not only HTTP The S tells you the website is secure and encrypted to protect your information.
7. Use a Credit Card or PayPal
Do not use a debit card or check as these do not have the same security protections in place for you should a problem arise.
Credit card purchases limit your liability to no more than $50 of unauthorized charges if your financial information is stolen, and the money in your bank account is untouched. Most debit cards do not offer this protection – and even when they do, you’re the one out of funds in the meantime.
Monitor your credit card, checking accounts online on a regular basis. Check your statements (electronic/paper) to validate transactions.
Consider designating one credit card that is only for online shopping and transactions. This way, if the card gets compromised, you can quickly shut it down without impacting any other type of transactions.
8. Read and understand the fine print.
Some merchant’s charge exorbitant shipping fees that can turn a shopping bargain into an expensive mistake. Check the terms and policies posted on the merchant’s website before making the transaction.