09 Nov 2018

How to safely shop online

Online shopping has become an essential part of our lives. It not only saves your time, but also provides us an easier and more convenient option to shop. Who doesn’t like to shop online? You can do it in the comfort of your home without brushing your hair, and you get great deals, discounts, bargains and so many options to choose from! 
However, as most people are aware, online shopping may also be risky. We put together a list of tips to help you sit back and enjoy online shopping while protecting yourself.

Tips for Safe and Secure online shopping:

1.Shop at secure websites:
How can you tell if a Web site is secure? Secure sites use encryption technology to transfer information from your computer to the online merchant's computer. Encryption scrambles the information you send, such as your credit card number, in order to prevent computer hackers from obtaining it "en route". Here's how you can tell when you are dealing with a secure site:

If you look at the top of your screen where the Web site address is displayed (the "address bar"), you should see https://. The "s" that is displayed after "http" indicates that Web site is secure. Often, you do not see the "s" until you actually move to the order page on the Web site.
Another way to determine if a Web site is secure is to look for a closed padlock displayed on the address bar of your screen. If that lock is open, you should assume it is not a secure site. An example is shown below


2.Research the Web Site Before You Order:
Do business with companies you already know. If the company is unfamiliar, do your homework before buying their products. If you decide to buy something from an unknown company, start out with an inexpensive order to learn if the company is trustworthy. Make sure that you are accessing the correct site of the company you want to shop with by checking the URL/address bar.

Reliable companies advertise their physical business address and at least one phone number, either customer service or an order line. Call the phone number and ask questions to determine if the business is legitimate. Even if you call after hours, many companies have a "live" answering service, especially if they don't want to miss orders. Ask how the merchant handles returned merchandise and complaints.

Check the payment site of the company for certificate of verification from major card companies like VISA or MasterCard. Most reputable companies also are members of a seal-of-approval program, which means they have a seal from reputable certificate authorities like Verisign or TRUSTe, example of a seal can be shown below.


3.Read the Web Site's Privacy and Security Policies
Every reputable online Web site offers information about how it processes your order. It is usually listed in the section entitled “Privacy Policy.” You can find out if the merchant intends to share your information with a third party or affiliate company. Do they require these companies to refrain from marketing to their customers? If not, you can expect to receive “spam” (unsolicited email) and even mail or phone solicitations from these companies.

You can also learn what type of information is gathered by the Web site, and how it is — or is not — shared with others. The online merchant’s data security practices are also often explained in the Privacy Policy, or perhaps a separate Security Policy.


4.What's Safest: Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Cash, or Checks? 
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card. In the event something goes wrong, you are protected under several legislation and policies. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorization, you might be responsible to pay a small amount or none at all depending on the amount and fraud case.

Make sure your credit card is a true credit card and not a debit card, a check card, or an ATM card. As with checks, a debit card exposes your bank account to thieves. Your checking account could be wiped out in minutes. Further, debit and ATM cards are not protected to the same extent that credit cards are. Always separate your online shopping credit cards from your normal ATM and POS credit cards and use low limit cards for online shopping to minimize fraud loss.

Online shopping by check leaves you vulnerable to bank fraud. And sending a cashier's check or money order doesn't give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase.

Never pay for online purchases by using a money transfer service. You could be transferring cash to a fraudster. Scammers will ask consumers to send them payment using a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram because they can get your cash fast and it’s difficult to trace. Legitimate sellers normally do not ask consumers to send payment that way. Money transfer services should only be used to send money to people that you know well, not to unknown sellers of merchandise online.


5.Keep Your Password Private
Many online shopping sites require the shopper to log-in before placing or viewing an order. The shopper is usually required to provide a username and a password.

Never reveal your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your birthdate, mother's maiden name. Do not reuse the same password for other sites, particularly sites associated with sensitive information. The best password has at least nine characters and includes numbers and letters.


6.Always print or Save Copies of Your Orders
After placing an order online, you should receive a confirmation page that reviews your entire order. It should include the costs of the order, your customer information, product information, and the confirmation number.

It is best that you print out or save a copy of the Web page(s) describing the item you ordered as well as the page showing company name, postal address, phone number, and legal terms, including return policy. Keep it for your own records for at least the period covered by the return/warranty policy.

Often you will also receive a confirmation message that is e-mailed to you by the merchant. Be sure to save and/or print this message as well as any other e-mail correspondence with the company.


7.Pay Attention to Shipping Facts
Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its ad. If no time frame is stated, the merchant must ship the product in 30 days or give you an "Option Notice." This gives you an opportunity to cancel the order and receive a prompt refund, or agree to the delay.

Here are key shipping questions to ask:

Does the site tell you if there are geographic or other restrictions for delivery?
Are there choices for shipping?
Who pays the shipping cost?
What does the site say about shipping insurance?
What are the shipping and handling fees, and are they reasonable?

8.Don't Fall for "Phishing" Messages
Identity thieves send massive numbers of emails to Internet users that ask them to update the account information for their banks, credit cards, online payment service, or popular shopping sites. The email may state that your account information has expired, been compromised or lost and that you need to immediately resend it to the company.

Some emails sent as part of such “phishing” expeditions often contain links to official-looking Web pages. Other times the emails ask the consumer to download and submit an electronic form.

Remember, legitimate businesses don’t ask for sensitive information via email. Don’t respond to any request for financial information that comes to you in an email. Again, don’t click on any link embedded within a suspicious email, and always call the retailer or financial institution to verify your account status before divulging any information.


In Conclusion

Online shopping is unquestionably a lot more convenient than traditional shopping and it may be a scary experience if you do not protect yourself online. Whether you are shopping for yourself, or buying a gift for someone, ease your mind with these simple steps and enjoy the experience!

Happy shopping!