Staying safe when shopping online

12 May 2021

Online shopping has become a multibillion-dollar industry, with around 1.8 billion people worldwide purchasing goods online, according to a Statista report. Global e-retail sales are also set to soar even higher this year, with the prediction set at $4.8 trillion. One reason for the increase in online shopping is the technological development – mobile phones, tablets and other tech gadgets can access the internet and perform quick purchases. In fact, Ibotta research showed that nearly half of consumers shop more on mobile than in-store. Additionally, it received a substantial boost when the coronavirus hit the world, during which awareness on how dirty money is was raised, leading people to shop online rather than in-store. However, as e-commerce rose, as did cybercrime. Unwary and uninformed users are targeted, threatening the online market’s safety. But staying away from online shopping isn’t the answer – there are several things that you can do to maintain your security online. 

Keep alert

In truth, in order to fall for online scams, you’ve got to be careless. How so? Cybercriminals tend to target those who don’t identify and click on phishing emails – those emails which claim to be from businesses that ask you to give in your personal information and banking details. Users who aren’t attentive enough who repeatedly use the same passwords, emails, public WiFi and save passwords and credit card details online can easily be targeted. 

Email scams

Phishing is scamming via email – therefore you’d receive an email that says to be from an esteemed business, which can in fact be of a real company, but wouldn’t be from people from inside the organisation. Instead, these emails are from cybercriminals who hope that users fall for their request and submit personal details as well as banking information. This way, the cybercriminal would easily have access to your banking account. In recent years, these fraudulent emails have become more common and harder to detect. Hence, to ensure your safety online, avoid replying to emails from unknown address or ones that aren’t written properly. Be careful – don’t click on any links from the email as they might contaminate your computer with a virus – or even your phone! If you see a suspicious email, delete it. If you’re not sure if it’s true or not, contact the company and check about it. 

Website safety

If you’re shopping online, check out the layout of the website – see if it looks professional. Have a look at the corner of the URL field and see if there’s a lock showing. The lock, known as an SSL, conveys that the website is safe. Another thing to watch out for is that the link starts with an “https” and not “http”. The ‘s’ here stands for secure. Again, make sure that everything is in order and that it’s not just the cybercriminal trying to outsmart you. One way to ensure that the website is safe is to shop from trusted retailers, however, make sure you type in correct address, you don’t want to walk into an unsafe place. 

Check your WiFi

Don’t use any WiFi when you’re shopping online. Even if you come across the best deals whilst sipping coffee at a fancy café, don’t connect to their network and make the purchase. Avoid public WiFis as much as possible and identity thieves and hackers would be able to get the information that they want. Public hotspots aren’t secure, therefore it’s easy for hackers to get through. An alternative to public WiFi that is safer is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or your phone’s mobile data. This creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the server which blocks the hacker from seeing your activities or intercept your personal information. 

Passwords

All websites tell users to create a strong password when creating an account. A problem that many people do, however, is using the same password for numerous websites – simply because they’d have less to remember. One purpose of strong passwords is to keep cyberthieves out of the accounts that contain your details. In order to create a safe, strong password, experts suggest using a set of lower and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols. Moreover, avoid popular passwords such as birthdays, names of sports teams or your pet’s name. As briefly mentioned before, create a different password for every site that contains your information. 

Credit cards

Most credit cards offer $0 liability for fraud; hence, you don’t end up without any money if you’re hacked and your account makes unauthorised purchase. This would be investigated by your credit card company and a new card will be sent to you. That’s why you should always opt for a credit card, not a debit card. Another important reason is that a credit cards don’t give sellers direct access to the money in the bank account. Adding a virtual credit card would also add safety, as they’d require more authorisation and use temporary card number.