Online shopping is convenient, easy and quick. We can shop when we want, compare prices and have our purchases delivered to our front doors. Best of all there are no lines or supermarket parking lots to negotiate online. What’s not to like?
Retail is no longer about “bricks and mortar,” it’s about “click and order.” In 2013, one in five people in the US did all his or her Christmas shopping online. More and more, we visit stores simply to view items, but then we go home to purchase them online at cheaper prices. If we do go out to a store it is increasingly just to pick up items we have already bought online (avoiding shipping charges and enjoying our purchases sooner).
But as shopping from the comfort of our own home becomes a part of our daily lives, it is important to ensure a safe online shopping experience. There are daily stories of online fraudsters and hackers, but the truth is that cybercriminals are less likely to get a hold of your credit card details over the Internet than they are over the phone, through the mail or in a restaurant. Even so, safe online shopping requires an extra measure of vigilance.
There are some very simple steps you can take to make sure you enjoy a safe online shopping experience:
- Stick to familiar brands you know or have heard of. But even then you need to take care – criminals often deliberately misspell the name of their fake websites to sound like a familiar top brand company.
- If you do buy from a new vendor, research it carefully. A good test is to see if it can be contacted if the order goes wrong – look for an email, a phone number and/or an address and a returns policy. A vendor's feedback history is another good sign of honesty and reliability.
- Use only secure sites. Look for a URL address beginning with https:// instead of http://. Look also for a closed padlock on the web browser’s address bar – by clicking or double-clicking on it you will be able to see details of the site's security.
- Avoid shopping via Wi-Fi hotspots – public Wi-Fi networks are common places for hackers to grab your information.
- Use extra caution when using your mobile device for online purchases. Shortened URLs, often used because they are phone-friendly, can also trick you into visiting risky sites.
- Install anti-virus or anti-malware software. Try Kaspersky multi-device protection for free.
- Ensure that your children do not have access to your online accounts, and limit their access to your credit card and bank information.
When you complete an online shopping session:
- Always log off, especially if you share a computer with someone or if you have used a public computer (such as in an Internet Café) or Wi-Fi network.
- Keep a paper trail; print and save records of online transactions.
- Read credit card statements when you get them and check for unauthorized charges. If there is anything unusual, report it immediately.