10 Steps to safeguard yourself when buying online

10 Steps to safeguard yourself when buying online

In the last few years there has been an explosion in the ecommerce industry with sales of 6.54 trillion expected in 2022. With Covid-19 restricting people’s movement, more and more people have taken to shopping online. It is more important than ever that customers safeguard themselves against online fraud by taking simple but effective steps to create a safe and secure shopping experience.

1. Only make online payment on an SSL certified website

What you are looking for is a lock to the left of the website address. A missing padlock means that the site is not SSL certified. The start of the web address should be https with the ‘s’ standing for security. A site that is SSL certified means that data shared is encrypted. This means your personal data will remain safe and your transactions are safer.

2. Pay by credit card

If you are like me, you probably use your debit card for making online transactions. Many of us are moving away from credit cards due to high interest rates and fees but when it comes to online transactions there are a couple of good reasons why credit cards are the better option.

Firstly, credit cards offer protection on purchases as they limited the liability in the event your data or physical card is stolen. The other issue is that a credit card is not linked to your bank account. This means your main bank account is not compromised putting yourself further at risk with higher account balances and a second line of credit for the hacker.

With a credit card you can also make a chargeback if you have had an unauthorised transaction. This means that you have a high probability of having an unauthorised payment credited back to you by your bank.

3. Know who you are buying off

Ideally it is always best to buy off a known merchant, but this is not always possible with some purchases as the company may be located offshore or not in your immediate area. This is where doing some background research is crucial. Here are some basic searches you can undertake to safeguard yourself:

  • Visit website to get a feel for business and see if website is secure
  • Review customer feedback/product reviews
  • Check Google rating
  • Check Google Maps of business address (if you can’t visit the store in person)
  • Check all social media and online presence (do they seem genuine/engaged)
  • Contact them to discuss store policies like return/exchange/warranty information

If any of your research results in red flags or you don’t fully trust them it is best to follow your gut instinct and not transact with the store.

4. Don’t reveal any of your personal data

To safeguard against scammers only reveal minimal personal details. You shouldn’t need to offer up things like you card PIN, birthday, or other personal details. It is worth building up some trust with the store first before launching straight into an online purchase.

5. Avoid the too good to be true offers

It is important that you know what the product is worth. This is as simple as doing a quick search for similar or identical products with other suppliers. If most of the retailers are all around a similar price but one is far cheaper then it is most likely the lower price is not a genuine one. Some familiar traps with lower price can include:

  • USD currency not AUD, remember the exchange rate will increase the price by nearly 50% when currency converted
  • Product not as advertised (fake product, not from original supplier)
  • No shipping, or duties included
  • Fraudulent supplier who never sends the goods and takes off with the money

 6. Read all terms and conditions

It is important to understand all terms and conditions of the supplier you are dealing with. This will stop any surprises later down the road with regards to warranties, deliveries, refunds etc. A small investment of your time can save a lot of heartache down the line. It is another way to understand your store that much better as wording of policies and how they deal with returns will help you paint more of a picture of the type of company you are dealing with.

7. Always use a strong password

For added security a more complex password is always recommended. If you are logging onto any online store take the time to consider your password and don’t make it easy for any cybercriminals to access your private information.

What constitutes a strong password?

Complex upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special symbols or long passphrases you can memorise that are hard for others to guess

  • Avoid any password with personal details i.e. children’s names, birth dates, favourite hobbies etc.
  • Avoid using the same password on other sites. This will put you at risk of data breaches in many other places should a hacker access one account.

8. Avoid public wi-fi

Do not in any circumstance do any online shopping using public wi-fi. This is because the majority of hotspots do not encrypt the information you send over the network. This makes online shopping extremely risky in this setting.

On an open network, hackers can easily access all of your security information like credit card details, email addresses, phone numbers and other personal details. You can also look at unlimited data plans that keep your sensitive data or information safe. The extra investment is worth it if it stops you from dealing with major fraud.

9. Keep up to data with software virus protection

Yes, keeping your software virus protected and up to date is a must. Whether you use a phone, tablet, or laptop for online shopping, it is good to have the latest security software on your device. It will give complete malware protection to your device. The installation of such security software is not enough. Make sure that it automatically updates daily to run smoothly. There is a lot of software and virus protection available in the market. You can choose the one that you find perfect for your device. Checkout several blogs on the best antivirus software. You can also check out the online videos of tech experts and follow their recommendations for antivirus software

10. Regularly review your bank statements

The good thing is you no longer need to wait for quarterly or even monthly bank statements. Get into the habit of regularly checking all transactions on your bank statements. Any transaction you don’t recognise investigate it and if you don’t know its origin contact your bank immediately. The key with fraud is to find it early to minimise the impact. If you are making regular online purchases keep a look out for the transactions and ensure what you are being charged matches up. Not all fraud is deliberate and sometimes companies accidentally double charge or incorrectly apply charges.

 In summary

There are several steps you can take to protect your data and make your online shopping experience safe and enjoyable. Prevention is always better that a cure. Online shopping is here to stay but we need to ensure we keep up with the advancements in technology. Unfortunately, online scammers will continue to try and find new ways to get peoples money by any illegal means possible. It is up to us to make is difficult as possible by prioritising our security and not making it easy for scammers to defraud us. Use the resources available to us by contacting our banks and mobile phone suppliers to ensure we have the right protection to suit our lifestyle.