Online shopping has been around for quite some now. The ease of just sitting at home to buy what you need is what makes it so popular. No more long lines at the checkout. No more having to fight off fellow customers for the last few items that have the best deals available. And all your purchases can be delivered right to your doorstep. That means you save money and time because there are no more travel and gas expenses.
The ongoing worldwide pandemic has made the online shopping market grow to unprecedented heights. Lockdowns and health protocols have forced many to stay at home and do their shopping using clicks, taps, and swipes. Even if the pandemic ended today, online shopping would be here to stay because many people, both buyers, and sellers, have now experienced its benefits. Some brick-and-mortar shops have now even transitioned to an exclusively online store setup.
Dangers Of Online Shopping
However, as with any online activity, online threats also abound whenever you go ‘window shopping’ on your phone or computer. Every minute you spend on eCommerce sites leaves you open and vulnerable to the dangers of shopping online. While you enjoy online shopping, hackers are all around the corners of the web, waiting for the perfect opportunity to launch their attack. We’re not trying to discourage you from online purchasing. We just want you to know how to buy online safely.
Watch Out For These Common Threats
Before we get to the hows of online shopping, we first have to find out the risks in online shopping:
- Fake Online Stores
Our brains read words as a whole, not by letters. So when I write about online shopping, you would know what I meant to say. It’s this autocorrect feature of our minds scammers rely on when creating fake online stores.
Say, for example, a shopping site is named onlineshop.com. Scammers make minor tweaks to the address, hoping you wouldn’t be able to notice it. Like onliineshop.com, or on1ineshop.com. It may seem very obvious, but that’s only because I’m pointing out to you there is an error. In real life, a lot of people barely notice it.
Once you fall for their trap, your personal and financial information is at risk if you make a ‘purchase’ from them.
Have you heard of ATM skimming? This happens when data thieves attach a gadget to the ATM machine’s card slot and proceeds to gather the data from the magnetic strip as a card runs through it.
E-skimming, obviously the digital counterpart of skimming, happens when a hacker inserts malicious credential-stealing software into a retailer’s website. While you are checking out with your credit card or debit card, the hacker is stealing your payment information from the shopping cart in real-time.
- Hacked Accounts
When you notice any unusual activity on your online payment account, you must act immediately. Contact your bank and/or the eCommerce company you use, like PayPal or Amazon.
Keep in mind these sites do not know your account has been hacked unless you report it. They will always consider all transactions as normal and there is only a small window for you to cancel the sale. If the purchase was successful, you can still file for a dispute, but that typically takes a while with a lot of processes to go through.
You should always pay attention to notifications from your bank or eCommerce partner.
- Data Breaches
This is one online threat you are powerless to protect against. Data breaches happen to the company you have your account with. So there is nothing you could have done to keep the thieves from stealing your data.
The best you can do is to immediately change your password and keep updated as to when it would be safe to open your account again.
While legitimate adware apps are used by developers to earn money so they can provide you with free software, some can pose a threat to your online security.
Malicious adware can be embedded with malware that can do anything from slowing down your gadget, to stealing sensitive information. When it comes to installing or downloading apps and software on gadgets where you have important information stores, it is always best to stay on the side of caution, and not on being curious.
Now that you have an idea of what dangers that may impact your online shopping security, we’re pretty sure that the nagging question on your mind is: Is it safe to order online?
The simple answer is yes. As long as you learn how to stay safe when shopping online. Remember, all your knowledge about online shopping dangers will mean nothing if you don’t know how to counteract them.
How To Stay Protected When Shopping Online
- Look Thoroughly Through The Site
As we said earlier, scammers can direct you to fake sites using twists to the legitimate website address. Make sure you review the site name to check for errors and anomalies. If you think something is not right, do a quick search on the company and check to see if their website matches with the one you are going to.
Another way to avoid falling for this trick is to type the address manually. Though it is more time-consuming than just clicking on the link, you can be sure you are headed to the correct site.
- Do Not Buy From Unsecured Sites
Another way to ensure website security is to look for a padlock icon. typically located right before the site’s address, the padlock icon indicates the site is verified as secure. This means they are using secure terminals so the data you input on these sites are kept safe.
Also, it is best not to ignore warnings from your browsers. Many browsers will alert you that the site you are about to enter is not secure or not private. You will have to click ‘proceed anyway’ to be redirected to the site. These warnings are not just for show, nor are they a waste of time. This means these sites have not been verified and your data may be at risk if you choose to proceed.
The best course of action is to go back or close the page immediately and find other sites where it’s safe to shop online.
- Use Strong Passwords
It is advised that passwords should be changed regularly. That is surely sound advice to keep your accounts secure. But don’t just change them with a bunch of zero’s or the very common 1-9 sequence. Don’t even think of using ‘password’ as your password. Nor your birthday. These types of passwords offer no security at all. Even a kid would be able to access your accounts if you use any of them.
Strong passwords are typically a combination of numbers, letters – both in capitals and not – and special symbols like @. Try not to be very predictable when creating a password.
- Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, add an extra layer of security whenever you go online, including when you go online shopping. VPNs allow you to access the internet and browse websites through a private network. This means the data you send and receive is encrypted so your internet-connected device is protected from third-party viewers who will try to triangulate your location through your IP address or steal your sensitive information.
For safe online shopping VPNs will mask your IP address so that your credit card information will be protected from hackers and identity thieves. Using VPNs is especially important when using public WiFi connections or when you are traveling to a different city or country and you are not familiar with the locale.
- Avoid Using A Debit Card
Debit cards are tempting to use in online shopping. One, there are no interest rates involved when you pay using your debit cards because you are using your own money in the bank. Second, there is no temptation to spend money you do not have. The amount you can spend using debit cards is limited to the amount in the account. It does seem that debit cards are the way to go when it comes to online shopping, as opposed to credit cards. Until your data gets stolen, that is.
If ever hackers manage to steal account details that are connected to your debit card, they now have access to all your funds. And they can clean you out in no time. Credit cards, on the other hand, let you spend money you do not own. So your cash is secure in a sense. Plus, credit cards typically have limits, so in the event of data theft, their online purchase is limited to only what is allowed by the credit card.
The Best Way To Shop Online Safely
If you think the best way to safely shop online is one of the options listed above, then you are mistaken. There is no one safe way to buy online. It is the combination of these safety measures that will ensure your data is safe whenever you are online. Taking your knowledge into action is the only way you can prevent these online attacks.
You can also monitor your phone using phone monitoring apps like TurboSpy. Keep track of when someone trying to access your personal data through your account and apps and track all internet activities.
Tiffany is a lead writer who has a passion for all of the latest use of technology. Tiffany has been writing and delivering the latest app reviews and news for Turbo. She is an unbelievable author and continues to produce must-read content.