Online shopping makes life a lot easier. If you need to order a gift, some new clothes, furniture or even your grocery shop, you can have this delivered straight to your door without the need to visit the shop yourself. It also opens you up to better options and availability.
What’s more, the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have seen retailers across the nation having to close their shop doors. This led many to focus on their e-commerce efforts. In a time when popping to the shop is not always an option, online shopping came to the rescue.
But despite its many benefits, online shopping also comes with risks. Cybercriminals and scammers are lurking out there in the digital world trying to steal your information and/or money. As such, you need to make sure you’re safeguarding yourself when spending money online.
And we can help you do this!
Below, we’ve pulled together a list of seven ways you can spot a scam, avoid unreliable websites and generally keep yourself safe when shopping online.
Only shop on trustworthy and secure sites
Shopping with well-known or trusted sites is a good way to ensure your data is safe. You will know most of the big-name brands and that they’re legitimate but if you find a lesser-known site you want to use, run a Google search first. This way, you can look for reviews from other customers and check whether the site is genuine or not.
Not only this but before entering any personal information through a website, there are other ways you can check the legitimacy of the webpage. First, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address. The ’s’ on the end means the site is secure. If there is no ’s’ it might be best to look elsewhere.
Similarly, browsers like Google Chrome will place a little padlock symbol by the web address to show it is secure. You might even receive pop-up alerts warning you of unsecured websites. So don’t ignore these warnings!
Don’t use your debit card
Debit cards can be great when you’re out and about shopping but when you’re making a purchase online it’s best not to use it. Because your debit card is linked directly to your bank account you run a bigger risk of something going wrong. Instead, it’s a good idea to use a credit card or payment service like PayPal.
That way, if you fall victim to a fraudulent retailer you’re much more likely to get your money back. When it comes to fraud and scams, credit card providers will typically refund your money right away and then start an investigation into the company. The same protection is not guaranteed with a debit card.
Update your software
Software updates can feel like a bit of a pain! Especially when you need to use your laptop or device and don’t have time to wait. Unfortunately, this leads a lot of people to put off the update – but you really shouldn’t.
These updates are designed to fix bugs, improve security and fight off any new attacks that might have emerged. As such, it’s important that you keep your software as up to date as possible. Next time you see an alert, don’t ignore it. Otherwise, you could be making yourself more vulnerable to cybercriminals.
Watch out for email scams
Email scams, often referred to as phishing scams, claim thousands of victims each year. Some will offer fake discounts or money-back, including malicious links that then infect your device with viruses or malware. They might also create fake emails pretending to be from the bank or payment services like PayPal in order to trick victims into sharing their financial information.
Now, it’s entirely possible that a retailer might email you with an exclusive offer or alerting you to a sale – but only if you’ve previously signed up with their services! If you receive an email out of the blue, this could be a sign that it’s a fake.
Similarly, if you receive an email from your bank, it’s best to log in directly or call them up. Do not click on any suspicious-looking links. One way to check whether the email is legitimate is to click on the sender’s email address. You should be able to quickly see if it’s real or not. If it’s a short .com or .co.uk address, then it could be real.
However, if the address looks something like firstname.lastname@example.org then this is a major red flag.
Choose strong passwords
Whenever you’re signing up to an online retailer, online banking system or a payment provider, you need to make sure you use a strong password.
OK, we might sound like a broken record right now, but you’d be surprised how many people still get this wrong. Be careful to choose a strong, unique password. Don’t use the same one for every online account you have. This makes it all too easy for cybercriminals to gain access to all your information.
If you haven’t changed your passwords on your online accounts for a while, it might be time to go through and beef up those passwords. Especially if you’re going to be making some online purchases in the near future.
Be careful when downloading shopping apps
If you’re downloading shopping apps directly to your devices, for example, Amazon, eBay, Argos, etc. make sure you download these from a genuine source. Unfortunately, there are cybercriminals out there that create fake app downloads to gain access to user devices. So always ensure you download the legitimate apps from either the brand’s website, the App Store or Google Play.
Don’t shop over public Wi-Fi
Nowadays, there are free Wi-Fi spots everywhere and that’s great! But you need to approach these with caution. Public hotspots are great for hackers as these can be unsecured and can give them much easier access to other devices.
As such, it’s best that you don’t log into your banking, payment providers or make any financial transactions whilst connected to public Wi-Fi. If you want to do this when you’re out and about, be sure to use your own data or wait until you get home. And if you do make any transactions when out in a public space, make sure you’ve logged out of your accounts afterwards, just in case.