The amount of online shopping has greatly increased in recent years. To stay competitive and take a piece of the online market, major e-tailers now give customers more choices and product selections, and brick-and-mortar stores also provide their own online incentives. In addition, many people who previously bought items from nearby stores have started shopping online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, as online consumer activity has grown, so has cybercrime, costing its unfortunate victims money.
However, just because there are online scams and cybercrime, doesn’t mean you should avoid shopping online. If you are aware of the risks and take the appropriate precautions, you can shop safely online.
Risks of online shopping
Risks to online shopping security include:
Cybercriminals typically do this by breaking into e-commerce websites and stealing users’ login or credit card information. It gives them the option of using user identities to make fraudulent purchases or selling personal information to other online criminals.
False online retailers
Sadly, not all online stores are reliable. Scammers may create fake websites made to resemble well-known, legitimate retailers. They imitate designs, layouts, and logos to deceive unwary users into believing they are visiting a reliable website. They might sell affordable electronics, jewelry, and clothing from well-known brands. Users occasionally receive the goods they have purchased, but they are typical fakes. Users occasionally receive nothing at all.
Data not encrypted
On some websites, data is not encrypted. They are more susceptible to attacks if they lack an updated SSL certificate. Customers who share their credit card information and other sensitive information with websites whose URLs begin with HTTP rather than HTTPS run the risk of that website not being secure.
A breach of data
When you shop online, you give retailers private information like your address, contact information, and bank or credit card information. In the event of a data breach, there is a chance that your information could be made public if hackers gain unauthorized access to an e-commerce website.
Before making a purchase, many online shoppers read reviews. However, keep in mind that not all online reviews are reliable. Try to verify the source and pay attention to your gut feelings if a certain retailer consistently receives reviews that seem too good to be true or are lacking in detail.
When browsing the internet, unwanted ads may appear on the screen. This is known as malware. Adware, which stands for “advertising software,” is designed to bring in money for its owner. Adware can be used for legitimate or fraudulent purposes by cybercriminals, such as luring you to malicious websites where they attempt to steal your personal information. It’s occasionally possible for an infection to start when you click the ‘X’ to close a pop-up advertisement.
Scammers do this by sending phony emails that appear to be from a reputable retailer. The emails typically include an attachment or a link that attempts to trick the recipient into clicking it, which usually results in the infection of malware.
Is it secure to shop online?
Given these dangers, it is reasonable to wonder if online shopping is secure. Yes, shopping online is safe. It might be unsafe because of how people use the internet and conduct their online business. And cybercriminals rely on precisely that.
They count on you being unaware of phishing emails and failing to recognize them. They count on you to use predictable passwords or the same login information across all your online accounts. They count on you signing into private accounts over a public Wi-Fi network. In essence, they rely on you, the customer, to disregard cybersecurity best practices.
If you become a victim of cybercriminals, it may cost you much more than just the money in your bank account; it may cost you your identity, which could result in a variety of financial and personal issues.
The truth is that cybercriminals are less likely to obtain your credit card information online than they are over the phone, through the mail, or in a restaurant, despite the frequent reports of online fraudsters and hackers. Nevertheless, an increased level of caution is necessary for safe online shopping.
How to determine whether a website is safe to purchase from
So how can you distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent online shopping sites? Observe the warning signs listed below:
Verify the SSL certificate.
A secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a sign that a website is safe for online transactions. In essence, it’s an encryption technique that all websites that request sensitive or private information, like your credit card information, should have. Look for a padlock icon in the URL bar of your web browser or verify that the URL begins with HTTPS, not HTTP (the S stands for “secure”), to determine whether an online store’s SSL certificate is current.
Observe the privacy statement.
Deals that seem too good to be true should be avoided.
If a website appears to be offering designer apparel, jewelry, or electronics for much less than the going rate, consider whether it is a scam. You might be paying for copies or fakes when you do this.
Search for a location and a phone number.
Genuine retailers typically display their phone numbers and physical address in the header or footer. If you’re not sure if an online store is legitimate, you can find out by pasting its address information into a search engine to see if its location can be verified. False sellers will either fail to provide an address or use a fictitious one.
Watch out for grammatical and spelling errors.
On their websites, reputable companies typically try to ensure that the text and images are of high quality. Poorly written websites with numerous spelling and grammar errors may be a sign that the seller is not who they claim to be. Low-quality images, a no-returns policy, and the inability to leave reviews could also be warning signs.
See if credit cards are accepted on the website.
Since credit card issuers can more easily refund money lost to fraud, credit cards are one of the safest ways to conduct online transactions. Because it’s more challenging for fraudulent websites to obtain certification from credit card companies, websites that don’t accept credit card payments may be cause for concern.
Safety advise for online shopping
Here are some pointers for conducting secure online transactions:
Directly enter the URL into the address bar.
As with links on tainted search results, scammers who send phishing emails rely on you clicking the link in the email to be directed to a retailer’s “website.” These links then take you to copycat websites with creative designs. Therefore, when you enter your username and other personal information into the Amazon website, you are providing it to a cybercriminal.
It is much safer to type the retailer’s URL into your web browser’s address bar to make sure you are visiting the real, authentic retailer’s website. This straightforward action can assist in preventing you from visiting a bogus or malicious website, though it might require a little more work.
Obtain a prepaid card.
Cybercriminals have created sophisticated tools and malware that, on occasion, can defeat your best efforts to conduct safe online transactions. You can use a temporary credit card rather than your regular credit card to make online purchases as an added layer of security. Find out if a temporary credit card number can be provided by contacting your credit card provider.
This is something that many credit card companies offer, allowing you to make a single purchase. This stops con artists who manage to obtain the details of your credit card from making any further fraudulent purchases. However, stay away from making purchases with these credit cards that call for recurring payments or auto-renewal.
In addition, some banks provide virtual credit cards. Like your regular card, but with a different account, are these?
Use a computer solely for online shopping and banking
It might be a good idea to set aside one of your computers, if you have more than one, just for online banking and shopping. You can effectively create a “clean” computer free from computer viruses and other infections by refraining from using the computer for any additional internet browsing, downloading, checking email, social networking, and other online activities.
Keep track of and safeguard your online passwords
One of the most crucial things you can do for safe online shopping is to use strong passwords and different passwords for each online account. Many different passwords can be difficult to remember, especially if they contain a lot of letters, numbers, and special characters. However, a password manager can be useful. Passwords that would otherwise be in plain text will also be encrypted by a reliable password manager. Password management and password security features are available in some antivirus and internet security software products.
Apply a VPN
Install a VPN first if you must use public Wi-Fi for online shopping (a virtual private network). All information transferred between your computer or mobile device and the VPN server is encrypted when using a VPN. This implies that even if they know the password to the Wi-Fi network you’re using, hackers can’t intercept it. While using public Wi-Fi, a VPN can assist in giving you a secure way to conduct online shopping.
Remain loyal to well-known companies that you have heard of or seen
Buy from well-known merchants whenever you can, especially those with a good reputation. Even so, you must exercise caution because scammers frequently purposefully misspell the names of their phony websites so that they sound like well-known companies. Do your research before providing any financial information if you are looking for a specialized item that is only offered on an independent website.
When purchasing from a new vendor, do your homework first.
If the order is incorrect, it’s a good idea to contact the seller; look for an email address, phone number, or address, as well as a returns policy. Another sign of dependability and integrity is the history of customer feedback for a vendor. Online reviews can provide insight into a retailer’s potential sincerity.
Use only secure, reputable payment methods when making payments online.
Use credit cards whenever possible because they are typically insured for your purchases. Contact your credit card company right away to let them know if you unintentionally enter your credit or debit card information on a malicious website or reply to a suspicious email with that information. Never mail money in any form.
After online shopping, always log out.
Always log off after finishing an online shopping session, especially if you share a computer with someone else or if you used a shared computer (like in an internet café) or public Wi-Fi network.
Check the statements on your credit cards.
Examine your credit card statements after you receive them to look for any unauthorized charges. Report anything strange as soon as you notice it. Make sure your kids can’t access your online accounts and restrict their access to your bank and credit card information.