I don’t know about you, but I have not set foot in a mall in years. With the ease of finding and purchasing objects online, I have cut the amount of time that I spend in stores to a few hours a month at most. Here are 10 ways to minimize your risk while shopping online so that you can start using safer practices.
1. Use Familiar Websites Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, with ads placed near the top of most search results that are placed for revenue and not necessarily quality. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. Sites like Amazon are well known, and every major retail outlet now has an online store, from Target to Best Buy to Home Depot. If you navigate to the site yourself it is safer than clicking a link in an unsolicited email that may lead you to a look-alike
2. Look for the Lock and the ’S’ If you do not see both the padlock and the https in the address bar, do not enter any personal or financial information. The transaction could possibly be intercepted or compromised during if these symbols are not present.
3. Keep Your Personal Data Private All online shopping sites need billing and delivery address information, but there is no reason that any shopping site should ask for personal information such as birthdays or Social Security numbers. If they do, shop elsewhere!
4. Check Statements Go online regularly and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly.
5. Use Strong Password s You must have a different and unique password for each website that you shop or have an account with. If you use the same password everywhere, it can be quickly compromised if it is hacked. See my article, Is Your Password Older than your Computer? (October 2010) for tips on creating a great password.
6. Think Mobile The eTailing Group says that nearly two of three shoppers use at least one device to research and purchase while shopping. Use your smart phone while out to compare prices, and many retailers will match prices that you find from other shops, just show them the screen to get a discount! Scan a barcode, and apps like Qrafter and RedLaser will do the comparison shopping for you!
7. Avoid Public Terminals You probably know not to use a public computer, but I will repeat this: Do not use public computers to buy or shop online. The network that a public computer is on may not be secure, and there could be software installed that tracks activity. Also use caution when using your laptop in a coffee shop or other public place, there can be nearby patrons that can see your card numbers and even record your screen from a few feet away.
8. Secure Your Wi-Fi Make sure that your home network is protected form electronic eavesdroppers by using a password to secure your network. This is easily done through the web control panel of your WiFi router, and will keep unwanted guests from using or monitoring your network.
9. Gift Cards Buy your gift cards from a valid retail store or from the source online. Sites that sell ‘discount’ gift cards are often scams that deliver cards with no or little value.
10. Know What’s Too Good to Be True Remember that many email scam attempts will often appear to come from friends or relatives via email, after their accounts have been hacked to deliver such offers. If you get an offer for a $39 iPad, send it to the trash.