We all do it. We see something that we like and immediately go online to purchase it. Our entire lives are on our computers, especially since the pandemic made it impossible for anyone to go out. Most of us pay rent, buy groceries, subscribe to memberships, and adhere to a pretty good habit of shopping online on a regular basis.
But do you ever stop to wonder how safe your information is on the web? And if you’re a victim of fraud, was it your fault or simply bad luck? It’s important for consumers to know what they can do to prevent fraudulent charges and exposed credit card details.
Just like it doesn’t take much for someone to steal private information online, it doesn’t take much for consumers to better protect themselves against thieves. It can be as easy as securing personal information with stronger passwords or avoiding making transactions on public WiFi. Remember, it is always a good idea to know what you can do to enhance your online security so that you can still enjoy making online purchases without fear.
How to Know if You Have a Secure Connection
Learning about online security can feel like a daunting task. Not everyone is familiar with the different terms that describe a secure website or connection.
There are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Any time you’re thinking about making an online purchase, make sure that the website you’re using has secure technology such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transmission (SET). This type of technology encrypts things like credit card numbers or bank account information and keeps it safe from hackers. The best way to check whether a website is safe or not is to see if the address bar says “HTTPS” and not “HTTP”. Think of the “s” as standing for “safe” or “secure”.
- Legitimacy is key with websites. If it feels iffy, then it probably is iffy. One thing that can help you figure out whether the website you’re on is safe for shopping online is by making sure they have a privacy statement.
Normally, as a consumer, you probably skip over the fine print. However, if you’re planning on typing in your credit card details, it might not be a bad idea to read about what the retailer, or online store, does to protect sensitive financial information. If they care about their shoppers’ online security, then it is safe to assume that their website is legit.
- Look out for misspellings. It seems like something funny to pay attention to when thinking about the ways you can protect your finances online, but believe it or not, a lot of consumers get scammed or hacked when shopping on websites that have simple grammatical errors. This is because these are websites that are not real and they’re an easy way to target shoppers to put their bank account numbers into a portal.
If the website doesn’t have legitimate product pictures, it doesn’t give you an option to leave or read reviews from other shoppers, and they misspelled “check out” as “chekc out,” then take that as a sign to walk away and make a purchase somewhere else.
- Be careful with anything that seems too good to be true. It is tempting to want to buy an expensive designer bag online for a low price. But think about how much money you might be handing over in the long run if the website ends up being fake. Online thieves are very clever and they’ll find any way to cheat hardworking people of their hard-earned money.
- Make sure that the website you’re on has a certificate of authentication. Basically, this is an online stamp that marks the online retailer as a safe place to shop. You can usually find a “trust mark” on the header or footer of the page with the name of an accredited security program that protects against hackers and malware (think of Norton or McAfee). This gives the website authenticity and provides security for online shoppers before disclosing any sensitive information online.
What NOT to Do When Shopping Online
Now that you know how to better detect whether the website that you’re on is safe or not, it is also important to know what kinds of things you should avoid doing online and what kind of information to withhold to prevent fraud.
- It might seem obvious, but it’s never a good idea to send credit card information, bank account numbers, or any other sensitive information by email. Emails are not as secure as we might think.
It’s easy for anyone to get into your email account and view the information sent through your messages. It’s preferable to pay through a secure portal or speak to someone that can take your payment over the phone.
- Chat windows are not safe. Even though it seems like you might be talking to someone trustworthy or someone that has your best interest at heart, do not trust them. You never know who is on the other side of the screen. And when you type in your information in a chat window, what happens to those credit card details? Who has access to them? If you don’t have an answer to those questions, then it is not safe to disclose your credit card number.
- Avoid using debit cards as a payment method. It’s safer to pay online balances with credit cards. This is because credit card companies are set up to detect fraudulent activity and they can return the money back to you a lot faster.
When you use debit cards to pay online, you are at a greater risk of losing larger sums of money due to your bank account number being exposed. Debit cards are also normally attached to a checking account where you might get direct deposits and those could be jeopardized should someone get into your account.
Living in the throes of a pandemic has not been easy for anyone. Online shopping has become a part of our lives; something uncomplicated and convenient. There are risks when shopping in person too, but we have more to lose when our finances and identities are exposed to strangers meaning to do harm and not good.
The most secure way to shop online is by being informed and paying attention to security details that are easily ignored. Though it can get tedious to double-check whether a website is secure or not, in the long run, you’ll be happier knowing that you were able to prevent a possible headache.