Most of us couldn’t do without the convenience of online shopping. Whether it means getting the best price on the latest video game or purchasing the perfect pair of shoes, online shopping gives us access to products, services, and special deals that might be unavailable to us otherwise.
Having said that, online shopping also has its own risks associated with it. The popularity and profitability of online retail has resulted in unscrupulous people looking to take advantage of unwary shoppers. Their tactics may include both deception and invasion. You may inadvertently download spyware on your computer that allows access to your personal information and passwords which can be used by hackers around the globe to use your banking or even personal details for their own ill-intentions.
Furthermore, in the virtual world, it can be hard to distinguish reputable retailers from criminals, as just about anyone can set up fraudulent a web site that appears to be a legitimate business. With risks that differ from walk-in stores, online shopping requires special precautions. To protect yourself and your information, always keep the following things in mind when making an online purchase.
1. Avoid strangers on social media.
Many retailers use social media to drum up business but sometimes their accounts may get hacked and their customers are sent a dangerous message or tweet designed to look legitimate. This technique is used by fraudsters to scam innocent people into losing their hard-earned money without them knowing about their true intentions in the first place.
2. Shop on secure websites only.
Always check for the more secure “https” protocol instead of just “http” in the address bar of your internet browser. Also, be sure that your computer’s anti-virus software is up to date, since you may come across viruses and spyware or other type of malicious software when surfing online for deals and good buys. Moreover, always stay away from fishy-looking sites. You can’t always tell when a website isn’t legitimate, but red flags include poor design, a strange or nonsensical Web address, and multiple pop-up windows you can’t close.
3. Protect your social security number.
Never, ever give your Social Security number to anyone online. If a site asks for it during the checkout process, it’s probably a scam site. No renowned and secure internet-based web-store will ask you for your social security number when you are making a purchase. It may ask you some details regarding your banking information sure, but not your social security number.
4. Change up your passwords.
Keeping track of all your passwords for all your accounts can seem to be a daunting task, especially since you need to mix up special characters with numbers and alphabets to make them unique and strong. Either keep careful track in a secure document, rely on mnemonic devices to boost your memory, or come up with some other clever strategy – but don’t stick with simple passwords that are easy to guess, and try to change passowrds regularly for further security.
5. Careful Email Practices.
If an email, even one that claims to be from a familiar retailer, asks you to visit an outside site, don’t do it – it could be redirecting you to a scam site. Instead of clicking on a hyperlink, key the Web address that you want to visit into your browser manually. Don’t click on fake e-cards, and avoid interacting with strangers that may seem to contact you from unknown or spammy email addresses. Remember that careful online shopping practices are all in your hand, and should you not feel safe in an online retail environment, take a step back, close your browser windows and avoid visiting such unsecure sites again.