Online shopping is fun, convenient and gives you virtually unlimited options to pick from. With more and more ecommerce websites surfacing, new payment methods becoming available and an increased number of people around the world getting easy access to the internet each year, ecommerce is at an all-time high. It is the future.
But bad guys can be found anywhere, and the ecommerce industry is no exception. When buying something online, you have to be mindful of untrustworthy stores that will misuse your information, malicious hackers intending to steal your credit card details or sub-standard retailers on major ecommerce platforms that will cheat you out of your money by sending low quality or faulty products.
So how to avoid the headaches associated with online shopping? Here are some ways you can keep yourself (and your bank account) safe when purchasing goods online.
1. Use trustworthy sites only
By now, most of us have had experience with online shopping, and know a few major websites that are reliable. Always order from websites that you trust and have used in the past. It is rarely a good idea to search for items to buy on a search engine; search on trustworthy websites instead and only go to another website if you have no option left. Even so, word-of-mouth goes a long way towards building trust, and if a friend, colleague or family member has had a bad experience with a particular website, avoid it.
2. Never buy on a non-HTTPS website
If you are going to make an online purchase by entering your credit card or bank details, always check whether the website is using SSL (secure socket layer) or not. You can check this by looking at the URL; if it begins with “https://” instead of just “http://”, then it is secure to use. Otherwise, your information is openly available to any hacker who might happen to be ‘listening’ to your web traffic. Modern bowsers show a lock icon in the address bar, letting you know whether a website is secure or not.
3. Provide the least possible information
Never ever share personal information on any ecommerce platform unless absolutely necessary. These platforms might need your email and date of birth for maintaining your account, and perhaps your address for billing and shipping. However, they have no need for things such as social security numbers, parents’ names, etc. Do not share information that they do not need, neither in the customer profile section nor when talking to a seller or a website customer support representative.
4. Do not save your credit cards
Almost every ecommerce platform allows you to save your credit cards for future use, and most of us opt for this option just for the sheer convenience. Yes, it is tedious to bring out your card and type in the details for every transaction, but it can save you a lot of trouble in case the ecommerce store gets hacked and all the credit card data gets stolen.
5. Check bank statement regularly
Whether you’re a regular credit card user or not, you should regularly check up on your bank statement to see if there are transactions that you’re unaware of. Most banks today offer SMS/email alert services, letting you know each time a transaction is made. Stay on top of your credit card/bank account statements and report any suspicious transactions immediately.
6. Find trustworthy suppliers
Sometimes you can get cheated even on large well-known ecommerce stores such as AliExpress. That is why most of these platforms employ multiple trust levels. AliExpress has a Top Seller badge that lets you know what sellers have a good history. Alibaba has Gold Supplier and Trade Assurance badges to identify trustworthy suppliers. Choosing the right trustworthy supplier can make a huge difference in your online shopping experience. Beyond these trust ratings, also look at reviews other buyers have left for these sellers – they should let you know how good or bad a supplier really is.
7. Avoid public networks
Do not make purchases while you’re on the go and using public Wi-Fi networks at bus stations, airports or coffee shops. The thing with public networks is, anyone can connect to them and start ‘listening’ to other traffic that is going through that network – packet sniffing in technical terms. Malicious users can easily get a hold of your credit card and other information this way.
8. Go mobile
Most major ecommerce platforms provide mobile apps. Although this shouldn’t be taken as a hard rule, always try to use these mobile apps instead of the website running in your browser. The reason for that is, browsers are more prone to attacks since most hackers focus on browser-based vulnerabilities. Mobile apps also have vulnerabilities, but they’re less likely to be exploited since each ecommerce platform develops their app in a different way, making it time consuming for hackers to exploit them.
9. Don’t fall for scams
Getting your credit card details stolen isn’t the only thing you can fall victim too. Many sellers will try to sell you sub-standard or faulty products at a low price. Remember the golden rule when online; if it sounds too goo to be true, then it most probably isn’t. The same applies to ecommerce as well. Don’t be tempted into buying that pack of 5 power banks for the price of 2 - you’re buying faulty products and in bulk!
10. Secure your device and network
Have a good antivirus program installed on your devices, and run security checks regularly. Also secure your home or office Wi-Fi network with a strong password and keep changing it from time to time.
These tips should help you stay safe and secure in the online world, and go about on your online shopping sprees care-free. Remember that prevention is always better than cure, and you should always try to be safe so you don’t ever have to be sorry. Be safe and have fun with your online shopping!