A couple shopping together online

3 Tips for Shopping Safely Online

Safe Online Shopping

Shopping online has become incredibly popular, and many people don't even shop in physical stores anymore. Shopping online can be convenient, but if you have never done it before, it can also be intimidating. There are some things you should know for safe online shopping.

There are very few things that can coax me to enter a mall. I hate looking for parking spaces and dragging packages around. I’d much rather sit in the comfort of my own home, shop to my heart’s content online and have everything delivered to me!

Thieves are an ingenious lot, and with all that money, credit card numbers and identities floating around in cyberspace, it’s imperative you know how to keep yourself safe online. In this article, we'll go over tips for insuring a safe online shopping experience.

3 Tips for Staying Safe While Shopping Online

Now that you’ve taken as many precautions as you can, here’s what we recommend:

1. Go Directly to the Site

I get lots and lots of ads in my inbox. I love looking at them and getting ideas for gifts, clothes, trips, restaurants, and more. When it comes time to buy, I will try my trusted sites first; sites I go to directly, not through a link.

Generally I start with Amazon since they carry virtually everything under the sun. Alternatively, I try a department or big box store since they all have websites you can order from. Be careful and make sure that you’re on the right website.

If I’m the least bit uncomfortable with the site I’m on, I get off of it immediately. A dead giveaway that you’re not on a legitimate site is a misspelling of the name, or a site that uses .net when it should be .com.

2. Ensure the Site's Security

Before you hand over your credit card information, make sure the site is completely secure. If it doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed, get off of it as fast as you can.

There are a couple of ways to tell if the site is secure. First, if there’s a padlock symbol in your browser’s window (not on the site itself since that could be fraudulent). You can click on the lock and verify the seller is who they say they are and that their certificate is current.

The second way is the website address should begin with https:// which indicates it’s a secure, encrypted connection.

I always shop using either a credit card, or an online payment service such as PayPal. Usually your credit card will reimburse you for the purchase if it turns out to be fraudulent, but different credit cards will have different terms and conditions.

Some credit cards even offer extended warranties on purchases.

With PayPal, you pay with your account with them so you don’t have to share your credit card or bank information with online retailers.

3. Don’t Use Public Computers

Don’t shop using a public computer. As a matter of fact, if you’re ever on a pubic computer, make sure you log out of every site you’ve visited while on it.

Computers save information, called “cache,” in order to speed up your browsing experience. If you’re on a public computer, someone could access your browsing history. I make it a point, even on my home computer, to clear my “cache” at least once a week.

It’s a little more work typing my password every time I visit a site, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Lastly, create strong passwords. If possible, combine numbers with special symbols and upper and lower case letters, and make your password at least 10 characters in length. Change your passwords every few months, and don’t allow any site to store your password or credit card information.

Additional Safety Precautions

There’s a wonderful website that has great in-depth information on how to protect yourself, Stay Safe Online, powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

As they state: The internet is a powerful and useful tool, but in the same way that you shouldn't drive without buckling your seat belt or ride a bike without a helmet, you shouldn't venture online without taking some basic precautions.

The following is a short synopsis of what they recommend:

  • Make sure your computer isn’t infected with viruses, spyware, malware and/or botnets, all of which are designed to give criminals access to your data. Keep your computers, smart phones, gaming systems and other devices you use on the web clean by installing the latest security software, browser and operating system.
  • Be cautious with opening emails, links, or anything else that looks suspicious. If you don’t recognize where it came from, or it’s from someone you know but the subject line makes no sense, don’t click on the link. Mark it as junk mail and delete it immediately.
  • Remain smart and vigilant. Generally, you’ll receive an email that looks just like the real thing. I never click on the provided link, even if it looks legitimate. I will either contact the company, financial institution, or website directly and ask if they emailed whatever it was.
  • If you think your email account, or any social network account, has been hacked, you need to regain control ASAP. Notify all of your contacts that they might receive a message that looks like it came from you and warn them not to open it, scan your computer for an infection, and change your passwords for all accounts.

Now that you know how to stay safe, go online and have fun shopping!