Safe Shopping Online

online shopping

The holiday season is practically around the corner and everyone wants to be the best gift-giver [even if they won’t admit to it at first]. Mega-sale here, buy-one-get-one-free there – it’s pure madness! I’m not even mentioning the lines still forming at the malls even if stock with greater variety is available online [luckily paired with a more convenient form of signing your soul away + $9.95 shipping & handling]. Online shopping has boomed in the past decade and cybercrimes exploiting coveted and impulsive purchases has quadrupled.

Seldom does a month pass by when we don’t hear of a massive exploit shooting the starter gun making petrified users race to find out whether their savings have been compromised. While being extremely convenient, online shopping does come with often-ignored risks and responsibilities not included in the cart subtotal. Fortunately, there are a few precautions users can take to shop and stay safe online:

You are, but is your device ready to shop?

  • Always keep your PC, Mac or mobile device up to date
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi or public computers when shopping online
    • This includes library & airport PCs!
  • Don't send your credit card details via email & don’t post them on social media
    • Even if in a private message
    • Don’t enter them on an unsecured website; a secure website has a few indicators which prove its credibility
  • Turn off Bluetooth if you are not using it, and check what permissions applications are asking for before you install them
  • Jailbreaking or rooting your device may open up more features but it can leave it more susceptible to threats

Inspect the website:

  • Research your retailer
    • Make sure to fully check out the retailer's credentials if it's not a big name you have heard of before. A quick search of the site name should turn up results and reviews about the service, but keep an eye out for overly positive reviews on user forums that might not be legitimate.
  • Check for a physical address and contact details like phone numbers, support email for the vendor before buying
  • Don't give away more information than you need to
    • Retailers generally don't need to know details like your date of birth or social security number, so why disclose it if you don't have to?
  • Ask yourself: Is this website legit?

For a peace of mind:

  • Remember to log out of your account after making a purchase
    • Especially if using free, public WiFi
  • Use a payment method with buyer protection
    • Although debit cards ensure you are using your own cash to make a purchase, many do not offer the same robust buyer protection as other options if something does go wrong. A credit card, PayPal or a virtual wallet option give you more flexibility when it comes to requesting a chargeback.

Finally, if you lose your device and it has personal information on it such as credit card info, or you left it logged in to an account which has access to your credit card or bank details, make sure you can remotely wipe and disable your device. For iOS, enable Find My iPhone from the settings. Android users can use Google's Android Device Manager to remotely lock and erase the handset or tablet. Windows Phone owners can use the Find My Phone feature to erase the handset if lost.