Shopping online has made shopping more easy and convenient for the consumer. I can’t think of anything more loathsome than trudging my two young boys around the busy high street shops as the Christmas shoppers start than panicked spree. Or worse still going it alone and braving the mad maniac parents in search of stocking fillers or the latest must have Christmas toy. I will be shopping, glass of wine in one hand, snug, warm, Christmas lists at the ready, all from the comfort of my sofa!
Shopping online has become huge and now makes up a massive part of our retail sales which a collaborative report published by OC & C Strategy Consultants, PayPal and Google suggests will only grow. According to the report online retail markets are set to double to £645 billion by 2018. With Christmas around the corner and then the immediate sales that follow, (before our turkey and Christmas pud has even settled), a lot of money will be spent by consumers over the coming weeks.
Whether you’re a savvy bargain hunter, Christmas shopper, shoeaholic, general shopaholic, or just love the convenience and stress free ease that shopping online brings, it’s important to use your common sense and follow a few simple guidelines to keep you safe when shopping online and to avoid get caught in fraudulent scams.
What Are The Risks Associated With Shopping Online?
There are a few key risks associated with shopping online which it’s important to be aware of so that you don’t become a victim of a scam or end up losing your money.
- Bogus online shops – You might receive fake emails posing as a well-known retailer offering discounts for purchases, but be wary as the links can often take you to bogus sites. There are a lot of fake sites set up on the internet that fraudsters take of lot of time trying to look like the real deal. High quality bogus sites have an incredible 45% success rate in getting hold of your valuable data.
- Unsecure webpages – Payments made on unsecure websites can lead to fraud as any personal details, credit card information etc is open and available to fraudsters.
- Unsecure wi-fi – If you’re using an unsecured wi-fi connection, whether in a library or just taking advantage of a public wi-fi hotspot our advice is not to shop! Unsecured wi-fi is another easy way for fraudsters to get hold of sensitive data.
- Loss of money – You’ve paid for you goods, all in good faith. They either arrive and aren’t of the standard / quality you were expecting or worse still you never receive them. Either way you are out-of-pocket.
- Fake goods– Unfortunately sometimes a bargain you spot might not be genuine and the goods you actually receive are fakes or copies of a product.
How to shop safely online
So before you start filling your virtual trolley make sure your shopping experience is safe and secure.
URL and padlock
Check the website you are using is secure, wondering how? Well it’s quite simple there are two things to look for, the first is a padlock symbol in the browser window, the second is that the website must start with https://. The ‘s’ is the important part, it stands for secure. This means that the website is utilising SSL (Secure Safety Layer), and encrypts all data and information distributed online, for example your card details.
Use familiar / trusted websites
Using a familiar site or a retailer that is a well established name will give you a sense of confidence and security that they will have good security measures in place on their online shop. Don’t avoid websites that you aren’t familiar with, there are some great little online shops with fantastic items, but always research them a little. See if anyone has reviewed them, ensure there is a physical address and contact phone number.
Make sure each of your online accounts has a unique password, never reuse the same password. Passwords should be long, strong and include a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols, never share your password. If the website offers a second verification service such as a question, enable this as it gives a second layer of security to your account.
After you’ve been shopping online make it part of your routine to regularly check your bank or card statements. Ensure the right amounts have been debited per transaction and that there has been no fraudulent activity made on your accounts.
Avoid using public computers, if that isn’t possible always ensure you log off from each account. Only check out and pay when your wi-fi is secure. Using unsecure wi-fi is very risky and can leave you vulnerable and open to attack.
Protect your device
Ensure your computer or device is protected by anti-virus and anti-spyware software, check they are up to date and your firewall is enabled.
Pay by credit card
Paying by credit card offers the buyer credit protection against fraud, non-delivery and guarantees.
Know what’s too good to be true
“If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”.
Everybody loves a bargain but be cautious, be extra vigilant at Christmas time. Many offers are scams which are designed by fraudsters to lure you in, with the intention to infect your computer and steal your data.
Pay by PayPal
PayPal again offers the buyer greater protection as you never share your bank details. PayPal essentially acts as a middle man, the buyer gives the payment to PayPal and PayPal pass it onto the retailer.