Top 5 Online Shopping Safety Tips

Mark Preston

Online shopping is a fast and convenient way to get the products you desire right at your doorstep without spending any time in a brick-and-mortar store. It also offers a huge array of products and brands. However, there are also some downsides to online shopping and one of them is security concerns. Shopping online is usually safe as most platforms are trustworthy and rely on robust cyber security measures. But there are also ill-intentioned individuals waiting to prey on online shoppers and get hold of their sensitive data. How do you avoid hackers and scammers while shopping online? Here are the top five online shopping safety tips.

1. Only Shop from Secure Websites

When it comes to online security, there is a simple way to ensure you are on a safe website. You don’t have to be a cyber expert to tell the difference between which shop is safe and which isn’t. Always look at the URL, websites that are secured start their URL with HTTPS. This means that the website has SSL or Secure Sockets Layer encryption installed. These websites secure your data when you register it and perform payment transactions.

You can also see the locked padlock icon in front of the URL if a website is secured. If an URL simply starts with HTTP and doesn’t have the padlock icon, it means it doesn’t use the standard SSL encryption, so you might want to shop elsewhere.

2. Look for Red Flags

Watch out for any signs indicating you might be on a shady website, especially if you’ve never heard of or bought anything from that e-store before. Hackers can build fake websites from the ground up or create copies of known websites. If you register your personal data on one of these to create an account, you risk falling victim to identity theft, impersonation, or online fraud.

To figure out which e-stores are untrustworthy, try to spot red flags such as

  • Poorly designed websites (e.g. low-quality photos and layouts, an overall unprofessional look);
  • Spelling mistakes;
  • Missing, or swapped letters in the URL (indicating the website is a copy of a trusted retailer’s store or eCommerce platform);
  • Little to no contact information (usually only an email address);
  • Missing privacy policy or terms and conditions pages;
  • Missing return and reimbursement policies.

Another warning sign to keep in mind while shopping online are bargains that sound too good to be true. These can be scams in disguise. Avoid exaggerated and unsolicited offers you get by email or see in ads on social media. If you want to verify the claims they make, check out the official website where that retailer sells products.

3. Use Strong Passwords

To avoid cyber threats, start with small steps. Create safe passwords that are hard to crack on the platforms you frequently shop on. The golden rule is to not use intuitive words such as your name or date of birth. You shouldn’t share these passwords with anyone or write them down and store them where someone can access them. Also, avoid using the same password on multiple websites.

If you want to eliminate the hassle of creating and memorizing all sorts of complicated passwords, you can also use a password manager. This software will automatically create, store, and enter strong passwords across all the eCommerce websites, platforms, and apps you’re using.

4. Install a Trusted Antivirus on Your Devices

An antivirus is a must these days if you want to keep your devices and your sensitive data safe while browsing and shopping online. Antiviruses protect your device against all sorts of malware threats including viruses, trojans, spyware, etc. You can unknowingly download these on your laptop or phone if you access unsafe eCommerce websites or download suspicious attachments you might receive in commercial emails.

To avoid the risks that come along (compromised device performance, identity theft, online fraud), it’s recommended to have an antivirus. These programs automatically block risky connections, thus preventing you from accessing unsafe online stores. If they detect malware such as viruses, they notify you and place the threat in quarantine, so it can’t harm your device.

Antiviruses now offer lots of cybersecurity features, for example, ad blockers and password managers. Besides, you can use the same antivirus across all your devices, which is highly recommended if you also shop from your cellphone.

With the average antivirus costing anywhere between $40 and $70 per year, it’s worth making this investment to know your personal and banking data is safe while you shop online. Plus, you can get an antivirus at a cheaper price since many providers offer discounts for the first subscription year. You can even use a free antivirus, just make sure you do some prior research to find a trustworthy and efficient one.

5. Use Low-Risk Payment Methods

One of the biggest fears of online shoppers is that someone will access their bank account if they register it on eCommerce websites. This is understandable, given that over 70% of data breaches are financially motivated. To avoid putting your bank account in some hacker’s hands, choose payment methods that are less likely to expose your finances to risks.

Of all the types of cards, debit cards are the least recommended for online shopping. These cards are linked directly to your bank account. If a hacker manages to access your card details, they could perform unauthorized withdrawals, transfers, or use your banking data to pay for their online purchases.

Credit cards are a safer option and so are electronic payment methods such as PayPal. Moreover, with credit cards, you have higher chances of getting reimbursed faster in case an unauthorized transaction is linked to your account. With debit cards, the necessary investigations to get your money back can last for months.

There are many things to consider when shopping online these days and security is one of them. Stay safe and shop stress-free by applying the top five online shopping safety tips above.