Even if Covid-19 had not happened, online shopping had taken the world by storm, with its convenience, bargains, quick shipping and easy returns. With the ability to shop from the safety of your own home, instead of risking contact and infection by going out to shop during the pandemic, it has gotten only more popular.
The convenience, however, does come with some attendant risks which we need to be conscious of. Following some simple practices should enable you to navigate your way around these risks and shop safely. Many of these are based on common sense, and not advanced technical know-how. Similar to physical shopping.
Shop at a trusted site
If you have used it earlier with good results, you can continue to do so again and again. But, how do you ensure it is a safe site the first time, and the deals it is offering are unbelievable? Misspellings in the site name, obvious errors on the pages, are giveaways. A genuine site makes the effort to ensure that its website does not have errors and visitors get a pleasant shopping experience. Fraudulent sites usually do not. If you can connect an online store to be the online presence of a physical store that you are familiar with, it is much less likely to be a rip-off.
Shop only at a secured site
Ensure that the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed.
How do you know it is?
The URL for the site will start with HTTPS—instead of just HTTP. The image of a padlock will also appear right next to the URL.
HTTPS is now such a standard measure, even for non-payment sites, that Google search highlights sites that do not possess it.
Opt for an invisibility cloak
The less visible your personal information is online, the lower the possibility of it being accessed and misused. Solutions are now available that enable you to shop without revealing any of your personal information. No email, phone or Credit Card information sharing.
Care, however, needs to be exercised while entrusting this information with the online solution provider who, then, can become your front to the online store.
Password hygiene is required
Most of our Credit Card issuers and online shopping destinations keep reminding us to not only frequently change our passwords but also make them unpredictable and difficult to guess. This remains a key requirement for online safety.
Examine your statements
While we may set up auto payment instructions for paying off Credit Card and other dues, it is important to examine the statements to ensure that transactions are genuine and initiated by us. Even if the statements are being received monthly, it is a good idea to frequently dip in and validate so that there is no surprise, in your Credit Card as well as account statements. The faster you catch a fraudulent entry, the higher the chance of recovery.
Install anti-virus software on your devices
During Covid-19 times, vaccination is widely prevalent. Do the same for your computing devices so that they stay protected against malware and phishing attacks that attempt to steal data from them. Keep them updated. It is a cat-and-mouse game. Fraudsters are evolving all the time. Do not blindly click on attachments.
If on mobile, use certified Apps
Most of us will shop online from a set of stores that we are familiar with. It is advisable to download and instal the verified Apps of these retailers and shop through them, rather than exposing yourself to links in a browser window. Caution – download and instal Apps from verified sources, like the retailer’s own website, as bogus Apps are also being created.
Make sure nobody is looking
You don’t need to feel uncool by doing so. It is your own money you are trying to protect. While we worry about personal data being stolen through online fraud, are we ensuring that it does not get stolen through physical means, like someone eyeballing the Card and memorizing the information on it. While preventing modern scams, don’t fall prey to ancient ones. As far as possible, shop from a private place.
If defrauded, complain
If, after all this, or even without, you fall prey to a scam, get up and complain. Do not be embarrassed. You are not alone. A crime has been committed and you need to ensure that you recover your losses, the perpetrators are brought to book and are prevented from defrauding others.