Online shopping has many advantages and has slowly emerged to become a much-preferred way of purchasing products for most people. With the ability to buy things with a few clicks and receive your order at your doorstep within a few days, it is no wonder that the number of online purchases has increased over the years.
Unfortunately, with the benefits of online shopping comes a myriad of pitfalls that can cause significant damage.
Identity theft, stolen payment information, and hacked accounts are some of the negative consequences of using online stores.
As the number of people using the Internet to shop increases, malware and hacking tactics has also increased and are more advanced.
The presence of hackers and harmful software should not serve as a deterrent from patronizing online stores.
However, it should serve as an incentive to take necessary measures to safeguard your information. Here are eight ways to ensure your safety while shopping online.
Don’t Fall Into the Website Cloning Trap
If you have ever seen a horror film where an imposter, such as an evil twin, wreaks havoc on the life of the person he is pretending to be, then you are already familiar with the concept of website cloning.
Website cloning is a popular method scammers and hackers use to steal a business’ identity by creating a site that looks exactly like the actual company.
Malicious actors tend to lean more towards shopping sites, banks, and travel booking sites when trying to steal information and money.
The cloned site generally looks identical to the real website with a small, usually unnoticeable change in the web address or URL.
Cybercriminals set a trap to the unsuspecting victim to get him to visit the website. Usually, this is done through links in emails, social media posts, and text messages.
So, how can you avoid getting caught up in a cloning trap? For one thing, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
For example, if you receive an email from “Apple” with a link to click to purchase the latest iPhone for an unusually low price, like $25, warning bells should go off in your head.
Whatever you do, do not click the link. You can always hover over the link without clicking it to see where it is pointing.
Also, look at the sender’s email address. If it doesn’t look like a legitimate Apple email address, it isn’t.
If you receive a message from a store you frequent often or your bank asking you to verify your login credentials, rather than clicking the link, go directly to your account from a web browser and log in.
If there is an issue with your account, you will see it once you log in. PayPal is a popular site for scammers. I often receive an email from “PayPal” notifying me that my account has been limited and to click the link.
So, instead, I log into my PayPal account and do not see any such notification because it was a phishing attempt by a malicious actor.
Verify The Authenticity of The Store
If you wish to shop on the website of a particular physical store, check their social media pages or go into the store and ask for their website.
Search the ‘About us’ or ‘Contact us‘ page to get the company’s contact information. Call the phone numbers provided to verify that they are connected to the right store.
Check review sites to see if anyone has successfully purchased something from the store and learn from their experience.
Upgrade Your Security Software
Your computer and mobile devices should have software that encrypts your information and makes it difficult for hackers to steal.
Make sure that you have a working antivirus and WiFi security on your home and office network. Upgrade your security software to the latest version provided by the developers to ensure that your devices are adequately protected from newly developed malware. Use tested and trusted security software and ensure to always pay for your subscription.
Avoid Using Public Networks
Free WiFi is a good thing because it helps you save your mobile network data while you are out and about.
However, it is strongly recommended to avoid logging in to your account while using public WiFi. Cybercriminals can have easy access to all your information and steal your details on a public network.
If you must visit your shopping accounts on unsecured WiFi, it is essential to use a VPN that will encrypt your data and form a shield against people that want to steal your information.
Guard Your Financial Information
Online stores collect your payment information to process payment for your orders. However, in the case of a cyber attack, your information would fall into the hands of crooks and hackers.
Therefore, refrain from saving your payment information on the store’s website, regardless of how secure it is.
If possible, avoid using your debit card as it provides a direct line to your bank account. Use credit cards or reputable payment gateways as it would be easy to get a refund in case of fraudulent charges.
Beware of Scams
While social media adverts are good sources of deals, they are also rife with scams and phishing schemes.
Deals that offer ridiculously low prices should be avoided. They are often scamming to take your money and either not sending you what you ordered or sending a different, inferior product.
Avoid opening emails from stores that you do not patronize; send them to your spam folder unopened.
Do not click on attached documents or emails as they might be embedded with viruses that can infect your computer. Always call or send an email to the store to verify any discount or deals that you receive.
Make Your Accounts Impenetrable
Using weak passwords that are easy to guess gives people with nefarious intent quick and seamless access to your accounts.
Ensure to use passwords that include uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Your birthday, pet’s name, or anniversary date are poor choices for a password as they would be anyone’s first guess.
Endeavor to use different passwords for your shopping accounts. You can use a password generator to get strong passwords and also keep them safe. Accept site cookies with caution, and do not save your login information on any site.
Most times, the terms and conditions and policy pages are usually glanced at or skipped altogether.
However, it is vital to dedicate a few minutes to peruse a store’s policies before paying for anything.
Most websites have policies that contain the company’s mode of operation, their stance on refunds and returns, and how they will use your data.
Ensure that you only use sites that keep your data secured and avoid those that will sell your information to third parties.
Check their reviews to learn their return process and how quickly they send replacements or issue refunds.
Follow these online safety procedures to reduce the chances of becoming a target for malicious actors who want to steal your information and cause you harm.