According to the Press Release published by comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) last month, the United States spent $42.3 billion on online shopping during the winter holiday season in 2012. The trend of shopping online is increasing every year among the consumers, which is giving a chance to scammers to fraudulently make money by cheating innocent people. You could be the next victim, if you don’t pay proper attention while buying products from online stores.
There are a few things you must be aware of while buying products online. If you follow all online shopping security tips mentioned below, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get cheated by anyone. The best part is, you don’t need any special knowledge, only basic computer knowledge is enough. Of course, you can trust the popular entities like, Amazon, ASOS, Flipkart, etc. But sometimes you might find an amazing deal on a website you’ve never heard before and since online there is no credit card machine with chip reader, you need to be extra careful. In that situation you need to perform the following “security” checks.
1. Look for HTTPS Lock Icon
Always check the lock icon in the address bar (image above) when you’re submitting secure information, like passwords, credit card details, etc. Especially on the payment page, make sure the webpage is secure. The lock icon indicates that the webpage is secure, and data will be encrypted before submitting. You can alternatively look for “HTTPS” (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), also known as HTTP-Secure, at the beginning of the URL – The lock icon is a indication of the same. If you never noticed it, you can see it on Google, Facebook, and many other sites.
2. Never Trust the “Public”
Here “public” refers to the public network or WiFi hotspot. Try to avoid online transactions when your device is connected to a public internet connection, or a network you cannot trust (friend, neighbor, etc.). If possible, postpone the transaction until you reach home, and use your home network instead (provided it is secured). When you submit secure information over public networks, there are chances of eavesdropping and other security risks.
3. Look for Seals of Approval
When you find a new online store, you cannot be sure if it should be trusted. I won’t ask you to avoid shopping from the website, because if something is new doesn’t mean it’s not good. Instead, you should check for third-party seals of approval, like TRUSTe. Make sure that the logos are not fraudulently placed on the website, some vendors might do this to misguide buyers.
4. Use a Secure Web Browser
Don’t make online transactions from an unsecured browser. Always use reputed web browsers, like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc. – and keep them updated to the latest version. Also, never install any untrusted add-on/extension to avoid any potential risks.
5. Use the Best Internet Security Tool
Installing merely antivirus is not enough to secure your computer from vulnerabilities, especially if you have an internet connection. When you buy (or download) an antivirus software, always check the types of protection it provides. Broadly, a good antivirus (for internet users) should provide protection from virus, spyware, malware, phishing, spam etc. and secure online payments. To protect online transactions on your computer, you may install an internet security software or an antivirus package which provides the required features. You can choose from Norton Internet Security, Norton 360, Bitdefender Total Security, McAfee Total Protection, etc.
6. Always use Secure Payment Option (Credit Card, PayPal)
While doing online transactions, always prefer to use secure payment options like, Credit Card or PayPal. Even better option is – use a virtual card. Many banks and financial institutions these days allows you to create a one-time or virtual card for transactions, which are valid for a few hours only. In this way, nobody can use the card even if they (somehow) get the details.
If you don’t have that option, always avoid using debit card with a new vendor, because of these reasons:
- If somebody fraudulently uses your debit card to make transactions, the amount is directly deducted from your bank account and you cannot claim refund in normal cases. On the other hand, if somebody does the same using your credit card, you can notify your bank of the fraudulent transaction and they will take proper actions.
- The debit cards doesn’t have any limit, the person misusing your card can leave you with ‘zero’ balance in your bank account. Credit card are better in this case too, as there is a credit limit of almost every credit card (and you don’t actually “pay” the amount, you just become “liable to pay” – there is difference!).
7. Watch What You Share
Do not share your personal or too much irrelevant information with new vendors. If you feel that the vendor is asking too much details about you, which is unnecessary for buying anything online, like social security number, etc. – Stop right away and think before you proceed. You can also contact the vendor saying that you didn’t complete your transaction because you don’t feel comfortable sharing the information they’re asking. The vendor then might change the procedure – and it’ll prove that they really care about “customers’ satisfaction“.
8. Some Basics you Should Not Ignore
It’s human tendency, we usually don’t pay much attention to small things. Always remember these basic points for safety.
- Use strong and unique passwords: Don’t use the same password everywhere on the web, most importantly keep your online banking account password and primary email account password unique. Never use your email/bank account password while signing-up on a online shopping store.
- Highest security level for bank accounts: Keep the security level of your bank account to the highest possible. At least, keep it to a level at which it sends you a unique code via SMS/call every time you make payment to a new merchant or transactions involving high amount.
- Check statements regularly: Keep a check on your credit card statements and bank statements, and report any unusual activity right away to the institution. Never forget to review credit card statements before making the payment.
- Keep the proof: After every transaction, print the invoice/orders summary as a proof that you bought something from the vendor. You can save paper by printing it to PDF file instead, and print the file on physical paper as and when needed.
9. Take “Little” Risk Initially
When you buy a product from a new vendor/seller online, and don’t want to risk huge amount of your hard-earned money, you may start small. Initially spend small amounts, and eventually is you start trusting the seller and their service, you can think of buying expensive products too. Don’t forget, if you get cheated, take proper action. The least you can do is aware other people by leaving reviews, sharing your experience, etc.
10. Learn from Others’ Experience
If you’re buying from auction related sites or sites which connects different sellers and buyers like, eBay, Tradus, etc. – you need to be extra-conscious while dealing with such sellers. Do a background check before dealing with a new seller, read the terms and product description properly. Again, if the seller turns out to be a fraud, take advantage of the “buyers’ protection” policy of such websites. Google is a great resource of doing a background check. When you’re not sure of an online store’s reputation, search on Google this query: “website-name review” and results will pop-up having reviews of the particular online shopping website.
11. Is the Deal Too Good to be True? Think Again!
The traditional rule of thumb says, if it’s too good to be true – Most likely it’s not true. You can’t ignore the fact that most of the shopping scams online offers unbelievable price. Still, you should not announce it a scam immediately. What you need to do is additional research, otherwise you might miss an amazing deal.
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