Shopping has never been easier than it is nowadays. Products arrive quickly, the deals are generally better than in stores, and who can beat the convenience of browsing through thousands of products from the comfort of your own home?
Unfortunately, with such easy access to thousands of e-commerce sites, many people get carried away with themselves when they see an apparent bargain, and they fall victim to online fraud. According to Business Insider, there were 27 fraudulent transactions out of every 1,000 in the fourth quarter of 2015.
You could write a book on how to avoid fraud when online shopping, but really it boils down to following a few simple and important steps before engaging in any transaction. Read on to find out exactly how to stay safe when online shopping.
1. Search For The Lock
You should never share your credit card information on a website that is not encrypted by SSL. The easiest way to check for the presence of SSL on a given page is by examining the address bar in your browser. At the beginning of the address, you should see the letters “https”, and a lock icon should be displayed either beside the URL or at the bottom of your browser, depending on the exact browser you use.
The above image is an example of a site that utilizes SSL on its payment pages. This is extremely important because it is the best layer of protection from credit card scams.
2. Research New Sites
Many articles on the topic of online shopping safety tell people to only shop from well-known websites such as Amazon or Ebay. The problem is that this limits your options when hunting for a bargain.
The best way to stay safe is to research any e-commerce site that you’ve never heard of. You can use a tool like Web of Trust to perform your research. This website review service gathers user ratings for websites and uses these ratings to give a website safety ranking.
To use MyWOT, type the URL of the e-commerce site into the search bar and click on the search icon. You’ll be presented with a score card like this.
The result you’re concerned about with the WOT tool is the trustworthiness score; this needs to be green and ideally over 85 for any safe e-commerce website.
You can also scroll down for in-depth user feedback.
The old idiom applies with online shopping that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. You should automatically be suspicious of any site that offers ridiculously good deals. Use a tool such as WOT to assess safety or simply Google search “name of website” and “scam” to see what other people are reporting.
3. Use Strong Passwords
It is extremely important to use watertight passwords when shopping online. If your Amazon account – or any other online shopping account was hacked – your credit card would be at the mercy of the hacker to do with as they please.
The easiest way to create a really strong password is to use a random password generator, such as the one found at passwordsgenerator.net. You can specify passwords to be any length ranging from six right up until a mind-boggling 2048 characters. Sixteen characters will suffice for the purposes of remaining safe while using online shopping sites.
There are many more tips out there on how to stay safe when shopping online, but the crux of it comes down to these three key points. Checking for SSL will ensure you are extremely unlikely to have your credit card info stolen. Using a service like WOT will help you decide if an e-commerce site you’ve never heard of is safe. Generating a really strong password will ensure nobody can get inside your existing accounts and clear out your bank account by purchasing everything under the sun.