These days, online shopping has almost become more popular than retail shopping. With the convenience of making purchases in your pajamas, getting better prices and having the products delivered right to your door; online shopping is really the way to go sometimes.
However, criminals have gradually caught onto this trend. They’ve been on it since the internet’s humble beginnings. They are clever, tricky and immoral. Fortunately, you can stay safe while shopping online by following the below tips; you can confidently make your purchases without fear of being a victim.
When shopping online, there are a few things to always look out for to ensure you are staying safe.
- 1. Don’t Be Phished – You don’t have to be swimming in a pond to be phished. No, that is not a spelling error or a colloquial term. “Phishing” refers to when criminals create sites that look like sites we know and love, all with the sole purpose of stealing your information. They are after usernames and passwords, credit card numbers and social security numbers. All of this can be used to drain your bank account and ruin your credit. How do you spot a phishing site? It will look strikingly similar to your favorite site. Popular sites that are mimicked are Paypal, eBay, Amazon and even Facebook. You can tell if the site is not legitimate by looking at the URL. If it says “paypal.com,” you are probably fine. However, if it says “paypal.randomword.com,” this is likely a phishing attempt. Phishing usually happens through emails. If you get an email from PayPal that says to login, don’t click the link. Simply navigate to PayPal and see what’s going on.
- 2. Only Buy From Secured Sites – Even if the site is a legitimate business, if it is not secured, then there is the possibility of your personal information being hijacked. A secured site has applied an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate to their server. This encrypts all data that is sent between their server and your web browser. If it does not have an SSL certificate, this data can be intercepted in transit by hackers. Usually, a site will have a seal somewhere on the website that says “SSL.” However, these can be faked. The true test is to look closely at the URL. Make sure it starts with “https” and not simply “http.” That “s” stands for secure.
What You Can Do
Your online safety starts with you, first and foremost. Having a prepared computer and being aware of your actions will prevent any security issues.
- 1. Mix Up Your Passwords – With so many online accounts these days, many people gravitate towards using a one-size-fits-all password. While it may be easier to remember, avoid this at all costs. If your password on one account is compromised, then all of your accounts become compromised. A great way to have several secure passwords is to choose a “base word” and expand on that with numbers and characters. For example, say your cat’s name is Mittens and you want to use that as your password. For one website, use “Mittens!95.” For another, use “Th3miTTens!” By having different varieties of a base word, you can remember all your account information and not be vulnerable if one password should be hacked.
- 2. Secure Your System – Please do not even attempt to shop online unless you have a reputable spyware/malware protection program. Do not go with the free or cheap versions, as they are often malware themselves. Aim for a well-known brand, like Norton on MacAfee. This will provide protection against programs being installed on your computer that can record your activity online.
- 3. Follow Your Intuition – Your intuition is that gut feeling that tells you the difference between right and wrong. It lets you know when you’re about to make a bad decision. Listen to this when browsing online. Perhaps a website checks out according to all the other items on this list, but if you get a bad feeling about it, stop. Listen to those feelings; they may just save your identity.
You CAN Stay Safe Online
Online shopping should not be feared. By following the items on this list, you can safely shop until your heart’s content. Mix up the passwords you use, avoid scam sites by looking at the URL and ensure that your computer has not been compromised. Trust your intuition and you’ll be just fine.
This article was written by Kim Jacobsen, who is often called the Online Coupon Queen by her friends as she constantly loves to shop online. She recently helped a friends plan the perfect vacation with Travelocity promotion codes, and has saved money on her phone using a Verizon promo code.