Online shopping – two words that many people get excited about, and sometimes even cancel other plans for, especially around *this* time of the year.
The holidays bring with them a load of offers, discounts, and special deals for shopaholics all over the world.
And how can the fun loving people of the world miss out on them? 🙂
Check out this quick fun fact:
- Research indicates that “shopping has a direct effect on the brain’s pleasure centers. It can flood the brain with dopamine, similar to the way a drug addict experiences a fix.”
Shopping is almost like a ritual for some people. And I’m not just talking about the regular brick and mortar stores.
When I say shopping, in this digital era, I also mean online shopping. We are living in the age of digital buying.
As a matter of fact, according to the Mintel Online Shopping US 215 Report, almost 70% of adults in the US shop online at least once in a month. Another one-third of them shop online once in a week.
eMarketer estimates, “In 2016, total retail e-commerce sales across the globe will reach $22.049 trillion. Sales will top $27 trillion in 2020, even as annual growth rates slow over the next few years,” as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Worldwide Retail E-commerce Sales: The eMarketer Forecast for 2016″.
(Image Credit: eMarketer)
So you can see how intense the love for shopping seems to be in the US and how it is continually growing.
Convenience is one of the biggest factors that have contributed to this rapid growth of online shopping.
People are increasingly getting super comfortable with the idea of snuggling up on their couches or beds and having the best of the world’s options to choose from and purchase with their fingertips.
While online shopping is increasingly becoming one of the most preferred means of purchasing products, it also has its fair share of skeptics.
As we all know, the internet can be one of the most dangerous things in the world, and when a new piece of technology is developed almost every day, there’s more risk and more chances for cyber criminals to gain access to your information and steal your money.
There are a number of people who shy away from online shopping, fearing the risk of cyber attacks.
But you don’t want some cyber criminals to spoil the spirit of the holiday season, do you?
Here are some practical tips that will help you stay safe while shopping online.
Online Shopping Safety Tips
#1. Never give away your Social Security Number or sensitive details
It’s understandable that a shopping site needs some of your personal information such as your name, contact number, email address, and billing information.
Beyond payment options, these companies use this information to send you future deals and offers.
But any site that asks you for anything more than that, like your Social Security Number, is not a legitimate one.
Some things always need to be kept to yourself. This is true for physical stores as well.
Many of these sites will make you feel that it’s the part of their normal registration process. But it’s not. Make sure you don’t end up giving out details that aren’t necessary.
#2. Prefer an “HTTPS” in the URL of the site over an “HTTP”
You need to look for sites that have an added “S” in the URL to ensure security. This is where the importance of a Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) comes into play.
SSL is basically what protects your personal and sensitive information as it travels from one network to another across the world. It keeps the information encrypted so that only the person it is sent to can read it.
What happens with other sites is that the information you send, which includes your credit card information, usernames, and passwords, can be read by any system in between you and the server, as it travels through the network.
On the other hand, if a website is encrypted with an SSL certificate, your information is protected from potential hackers and cyber criminals.
Websites that use SSL certificates either have a closed lock or an unbroken key at the bottom.
Sites that are protected with an EV SSL certificate (or an Extended Validation) have a padlock and a green address bar when opened on most browsers.
(Image Credit: Shopify)
Now you know what to look for in a good shopping site.
If you are using the Chrome browser, you can use the HTTPS Everywhere addon to enforce secure connections with every site you browse.
If you want to take your browser security to the next level, you can use this newly launched browser called Brave.
This one has an inbuilt option to enforce HTTPS, ad-blocking, and blocking tracking scripts.
#3. Use credit cards more than debit cards
As rightly said by the popular financial blog NerdWallet, “With a credit card, the card issuer must fight to get his money back. With a debit card, you must fight to get your money back.”
When you use a debit card, instead of a credit card, you give out information which allows a possible cyber criminal direct access to your bank account. When you use a credit card, you are using the card issuer’s money. It’s easier to take protective measures and get a new card issued in the case of fraudulent activity on your credit card.
If you are paranoid about your security & shopping from an unreliable or new site, you can use PayPal, PayTM, or any other such payment method which doesn’t require you to give out your credit card details. The only downside is you might end up paying an extra 1-2%.
#4. Use a separate email address for shopping
When you shop online, you need to provide your email address.
My advice is to maintain a separate account just for online shopping. This gives you two advantages:
- If that site ever gets hacked or is compromised in some way, none of your important personal information (which is present in your regular email) is at risk.
- All the promotional and marketing emails go into that account, which lets you save a lot of email space.
Speaking of email, beware of fraud emails trying to steal your info.
Here’s an example of a phishing fraud email:
(Image Credit: SSL2BUY)
Here are a few articles that you must read:
- Public Awareness: Safeguard Yourself From Phishing Emails
- What Is Phishing and Phishing Safeguard Methods
- How Do Hackers Hack Your Passwords?
#5. Use different passwords for all of your accounts
This is more of a cliché thing to say, but it’s important that you maintain different passwords for various accounts.
Otherwise, when one of your accounts gets hacked by a criminal, it will become a walkover for the rest of your accounts to be compromised. So make sure you have at least 2 or 3 different passwords. You can go ahead and write them down somewhere, as long as they are in a safe and secure place.
If you are a power internet user, make sure you use a password manager. Dashlane is one that I can recommend which works on all browsers & smartphones. Here is a screenshot of the Dashlane password audit dashboard (it’s downloadable software for desktops with an iOS/Android app for smartphones).
Apart from saving passwords, this popular password manager will also suggest strong passwords when you are registering a new account online. In 2017 & beyond, having a password manager is a must.
Another good alternative is 1PasswordManager.
#6. Use several layers of security
When you see two and three-step authentication processes for shopping sites, do not skip them.
They add an extra layer of security to your account, and it makes it harder for hackers to get access.
You need to do this even if it means going through an extra step while you are hurriedly trying to purchase something. You will not want to have a hacker steal your information because you didn’t want to spend an extra 30 seconds ensuring your security.
According to Allen Grayson, an internet security expert at Symantec:
One of the best ways to keep your business safe from cyber criminals is layering your security. Start with firewalls, an essential aspect in stopping attackers before they can breach your network and gain access to your critical information. Add extra layers of security to the website and applications such as contact forms, login boxes, and search queries.
Staying Safe When Shopping Online
Above all of these, trust your instincts. Just like you wouldn’t go into a store or any place that seems “odd” to you, do not continue shopping on a site that appears to be illegitimate.
If the site has a weird URL, or if it’s designed in a weird way, or if there are too many pop-ups, then you should probably leave. It’s always better to be safe when there’s so much at stake.
Be sure to follow these tips while shopping online. But don’t let fear kill your spirit!
What tips do you follow to ensure your shopping safety online? Let me know in the comments section!
And don’t forget to share this post!
- Also read: How To Save Money When Shopping Online in India
- Cashkaro: Get Real Cash Back When You Shop Online in India