Let’s face it, shopping online has never been easier or more convenient than it is now. The bargains are there, shipping is fast, returns are pretty easy, and you don’t have to get in your car and drive around for hours looking for that perfect gift or outfit for your next party. You can’t beat shopping in your p.j.’s while drinking a cup of coffee.
Shopping online does carry some risk and it could lead to identity theft. You can be reasonably sure you’ll have a safe experience shopping online as long as you follow some basic guidelines.
Use Familiar Websites When Shopping Online
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a ripoff. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy to Home Depot.
Look For Secure Lock Logo on a Website
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed – at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. And, NEVER give your credit card number over email.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
Check Your Credit Card or Bank Statements
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges. If you do, call the financial institution immediately so they can put a freeze on your account.
Install Antivirus Software on Your Computer
Thieves and hackers don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.
Use Strong Passwords to Access Accounts
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it’s never more important than when banking and shopping online. See our tips for creating a strong password.
Privatize Your Wi-Fi Connection in Your Home
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
By paying attention to these tips, the odds of your being victimized by online fraud are pretty low. Here’s to a happy and safe online shopping experience!