As more consumers buy online to beat the credit crunch, shoppers should follow this ten point guide to ensure they have a safe and secure shopping experience.
Research show that the credit crunch is giving rise to more and more consumers who are using online shopping sites for discounts on their shopping. As more shoppers go online, security becomes an increasingly important issue. Here’s a valuable ten point security guide to help shoppers have a safe and secure shopping experience
Statistics show that growth and confidence in online shopping is growing rapidly, which is thought to be synonymous with the fact that many consumers have never been hit by an attack, simply because they’ve been lucky and not because they’ve been more aware of the threats of using online stores. As consumer confidence in the safety of online shopping rides high, experts warn that users and online retailers need to be alert to threats as criminals become more intelligent and their methods more sophisticated.
Ten point guide to use when shopping online:
1. Ensure a site is secure before making a purchase
You can tell a site is secure using several methods. Please note that not all symbols and methods need to be applicable or present to designate a secure site:
Look at the top of your screen where the web site address is displayed. Here you should see https:// and not http:// – note the added s at the end of http.
This “s” denotes that the web site is secure.
Often, you will not see the https:// until you actually move to the payment page on the web site.
A closed (locked) padlock at the bottom or top of your internet browser is also another way of determining if the site is secure.
If the lock is open then you should assume the site is not secure.
The final symbol to look out for is a symbol of a key.
An unbroken key designates a secure site.
When a site is secure the information that is transmitted between you and the merchant is encrypted to prevent hackers from snooping on vital information.
2. Check Digital Certificates
Where possible, only use a website with an approved SSL (Secure Socket Layer) digital certificate. A site with a good digital certificate will provide assurance for Internet security and enable the strongest SSL encryption available to every site visitor.
Digital certificates are often recognised by a symbol emblazoned on the page when you make payment you can click on this logo for more details of the certificate and to verify its authenticity.
There are many big names that issue digital certificates, including Verisign, Thawte, GeoTrust and more.
3. Check Payment Methods
Some websites may not accept some credit / debit cards. In these instances it is best to avoid these websites and to find another one offering similar services / products.
When it comes to paying for products and services online, using credit cards is one of the safest means as your card company are on the lookout for fraudsters and you will probably be insured against losing any money if you are scammed. Avoid all websites that ask for money transfers through MoneyGram or BACs transfers.
4. Secure Your PC
Secure your PC with the latest browser version and good anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
Not only this, but make sure that the automatic updates settings is enabled, so you have the latest protection against the latest attacks.
Always check you are using the latest browser version as the newest browsers will have updated security checks to thwart attacks and alert you when a site is in-secure.
There are also many free anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions available to consumers.
Have a look at AVG Anti Virus and Microsoft Security Essentials – they’re both free and provide good protection for your computer.
A personal firewall is also highly recommended and can prevent unauthorised access to your machine. If you have a broadband router or modem then it’s highly likely that you already have firewall built-in to the router / modem. Check the manual and confirm that this is enabled.
Windows 7 and some other operating systems also come preinstalled with a firewall so again ensure that this is enabled.
5. Use a Low Limit Credit Card
The safest way to pay online is by credit card as they come with additional protection and limited liability as mentioned in point 3. When using a credit card it is advisable to use a low limit card purposely for making transactions online to minimise the damage someone can do if that card is compromised. Debit cards are a different ball game as they are more like cash transaction in that when they are used cash is deducted almost instantly. If you use a debit card then have an account with a small balance for online transactions.
6. Check Your Credit Report and Credit Card Bills
This may sound obvious but pay close attention to your credit report as well as your credit card bills. If your identity is stolen and you don’t complain immediately, you may affect your chances of being protected and stopping further transactions. Check your statements for purchases you didn’t make or that look unfamiliar and follow them up.
7. Do your research
Only shop with an online store that you trust, and are confident with.
Carry out a few background checks on the business by;
- check out the seller’s reputation – Office for Standard Trading is good for this
- look for feedback or comments from customers
- perform a few web searches on Google and see what comes up
- give the store a call and talk to someone on the other side to vet the authenticity of the business.
If anything looks out of place don’t be afraid to ask questions or look somewhere else.
8. Keep Records
Make a note of all confirmation numbers and order numbers.
Retain the following records for all online shopping transactions:
- A printout of the web pages indicating the seller’s name, postal address, and telephone number;
- A printout of the web pages describing the item(s) ordered
- A printout of the web pages or pop-up screens that provide the seller’s legal terms
- Printouts of any e-mail messages (for example, confirmation messages) that you send to or receive from the seller. This includes:
- Those that might show that the seller indicated that the product would be suitable for the specific purpose for which you needed it
- Those in which you notify the seller of problems with the merchandise that you have received
- Those that would show your good faith attempt to resolve with the merchant a charge that you do not feel should have been made to your credit card.
- Notes or e-mail confirmations of any telephone conversations that you have with the seller.
- Make sure all records are dated
9. Be Wary of Emails and Phishing Sites
Be cautious of all e-mails that ask for personal information, even if the email takes you to a website that looks like the business you’re dealing with, it’s very easy to make a website look genuine by copying the HTML code.
Legitimate businesses don’t send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account or ask for user name and password information. If you’re concerned then call the contact number on the Web site where you made the purchase to ask if there was a problem with your transaction. Always questioning any email correspondence that comes out of the blue asking for financial information. If in doubt make a telephone call to the company to put your mind at rest.
10. Take Your Time.
Always take your time and be in the best frame of mind when sending personal details online. Do not hurry through a transaction and be completely aware of the item you are purchasing, where you’re purchasing it from and how you’re purchasing.
Be attentive to all messages and warnings properly and don’t just click on OK.
The trend for online shopping is only set to increase and become a greater part of our everyday lives therefore its crucial for consumers to be e-wise with the possible threats of online shopping in order to make their experience more rewarding.