Safety Tips To Protect Yourself Shopping Online: Things You Should Know

Online shopping is convenient and has broadened the market for smaller vendors. However, there is also risk associated with it. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, online retail sales in the United States reached $305 billion in 2016 and are expected to grow to nearly $375 billion by 2021.

With these numbers continuing to rise, it’s no wonder that more people are inclined to buy products online instead of from a local store. Unfortunately, this ease of buying online has led to a surge in fraudulent websites looking only to take advantage of trusting shoppers.

Fortunately, with some foresight and caution, you can shop online safely and securely while also feeling confident that your personal information is safe at all times.

Always Place Orders From A Secure Connection

The first thing you should do before you even consider making a purchase online is to check the URL of the website’s address bar. This is the first indication of how secure a website is and whether or not your personal information and credit card data is safe to be processed.

A website’s address bar will typically display the HTTP protocol instead of the HTTPS protocol. The “S” in HTTPS means that the website uses encryption to protect your data while it travels to and from the website.

If the URL only shows HTTP, then this is a red flag and shouldn’t be ignored. This means that your information is not secure and is being transmitted in plain text. This is not only unsafe for your data but could also result in identity theft and fraud.

Always opt for websites that use the HTTPS protocol and have a padlock symbol. It’s also a good idea to verify that the SSL certificate is valid, as this is another indication that the website uses a high level of encryption.

Use Familiar Websites

One way to avoid purchasing from unknown or fraudulent websites is to stick with websites that have a good reputation. These are websites that you have used before and have felt confident using in the past.

One of the best ways that you can protect your personal information while shopping online is to use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have fraud protection built into their terms that can help you recover any money that is stolen from your account.

As well as any additional fees associated with having fraudulent charges on your account. Debit cards, on the other hand, have very limited fraud protection that offers almost no help in recovering your losses.

When shopping online, it’s best to use a credit card and steer clear of debit cards unless you are confident that your information is 100% safe.

Know The Merchant And Their Reputation

Another way to protect yourself when shopping online is to make sure that the website or store is legitimate. One way to do this is to check the website’s reputation.

Reputation.com allows you to search for websites by topic or domain and see a rating based on their reputation. This can be helpful in determining if a website is legitimate and safe to use.

If you aren’t sure about a website’s reputation, it’s a good idea to look for information about the website’s owner and make sure that it is verified and legitimate.

You can do this by checking the Better Business Bureau’s website for the company. This will allow you to see any complaints that have been filed against the company and investigate whether or not they are valid.

If a company has a poor reputation with the BBB, there is a good chance that they are fraudulent or at the very least, untrustworthy.

Use Credit Cards And Secure Payment Services

One of the best ways to protect your personal information and identity when shopping online is to use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have fraud protection built into their terms that allow you to get your money back in the case of fraudulent charges on your account.

Debit cards, on the other hand, have very limited fraud protection that offers almost no help in recovering your losses. Credit cards also have a higher purchasing power and can offer you rewards on your purchases.

If you are unsure about a website’s legitimacy, it’s also a good idea to use a secure payment service when purchasing products online. Secure payment services like PayPal protect you from fraudulent activity on your account and can offer you a full refund in the case of fraud.

Check The Product’s Credibility

One of the best ways to protect your personal information and identity when buying products online is to make sure that the product you are buying is genuine.

This can be a little tricky, especially with websites that offer a wide variety of products. If you are unsure about the product, there are a few things that you can do to determine if it is legitimate or not.

First, look at the website’s About Us page and their Terms of Use or Privacy Policy pages. This will help you determine if the website is legitimate and if they are a trustworthy source of products.

You can also check the website’s domains and IP address to see if they are located in the country that they claim they are. Domain and IP address information can be found on websites like whoishostingthis.com.

Opt For Your Mobile Phone Network Over Public Wi-Fi

Another way to protect your personal information and identity when shopping online is to avoid making purchases over public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks, especially those that aren’t password protected, can be used by people to login to your computer or network and steal your information.

It’s best to avoid making large purchases on public Wi-Fi networks, or at the very least, avoid making them while logged into your bank account or other financial accounts.

If you aren’t sure about a website or if their products are legitimate, it’s a good idea to call the company and speak to their customer service representative. If you are uncomfortable doing this, it’s best to move on to a website that you feel confident in.

Avoid Links In Emails And Ads

The most common of all scams is the email that contains a link to a website where you can supposedly purchase items. These emails almost always contain a link to a website with a name that resembles an official outlet for a well-known store that you’ve used before.

Scammers will typically say that the website has “discontinued” some particular item that you’ve been trying to find. These emails may even include a form that asks you for your credit card information.

Websites that ask you to enter your credit card information regardless of whether you clicked through an email or typed the site’s URL into your browser are typically fake.

Avoid Offers That Seem Too Good To Be True

It’s easy to be lured into deceiving marketing tactics, especially if you are looking to purchase a new product that you don’t need yet. Online vendors will often advertise a high-end item at a price far below its normal market value. While this could be an incredible deal for you, you have to be careful and cautious.

As mentioned above, scammers use these tactics to lure in potential customers. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to be cautious and double-check that the site is legitimate before you provide any personal information.

Always Check The Company’s Shipping Terms

Before you give any vendor your credit card information, check the vendor’s shipping terms. If a vendor is confident, they’ll likely have a shipping policy that’s published online.

If a vendor is reluctant to show you how soon they’ll ship your order, or if they have special “terms” that they want you to follow before you receive your order, they’re probably a scammer.

Additionally, if a vendor has a generous “guarantee” it’s likely a scammer. A legitimate company will usually have very strict policies and won’t offer you a “guarantee” because your order will likely be denied.

If a vendor is willing to bend their strict policies and provide a “guarantee” on their website, you can bet that they’re hoping you’ll forget to file a claim.

Conclusion

Online shopping has become a common part of daily life. Unfortunately, this ease of buying online has led to a surge in fraudulent websites looking only to take advantage of trusting shoppers.

Fortunately, with some foresight and caution, you can shop online safely and securely while also feeling confident that your personal information is safe at all times.

The first thing you should do before you even consider making a purchase online is to check the URL of the website’s address bar. This is the first indication of how secure a website is and whether or not your personal information and credit card data is safe to be processed.

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