Online shopping has been a part of our lives for nearly as long as the internet. Since the 2020 pandemic, we’ve become even more reliant on buying everything imaginable online, but do you know how to keep yourself safe?
Americans lost nearly $6 billion to online fraud, including online shopping scams, in 2021, that’s a 70% increase from the previous year. The same report says the average person will lose $500 when they fall victim to online fraud.
That’s a whole bunch of cash to lose, but it’s not inevitable that you’ll become a victim. There are some simple, savvy steps you can take to stay protected when you shop online.
- Check the website URL
The URL, or web address, of a shopping site, can tell you a lot about how safe the site is.
First, you want to look out for the padlock next to the address bar in your browser, like so:
The text next to the padlock should be https:// rather than http://. It might sound like a tiny detail to pay attention to, but it means the site you’re on has passed at least basic security certification. Scammers don’t tend to bother with this.
You should also check that the URL is an exact match to what you expect. It can be relatively easy for someone to create www.amazon.co, make it look just like Amazon, then steal the card details you enter on the site.
Simple checks like this before you start perusing your online shop of choice are a great start to being safe online.
- Check the email sender
Just like you should check the website you’re on, you need to be checking the emails you click on.
First, avoid opening emails from companies you don’t know and haven’t shopped with before. Delete it and move on.
Next, if you think you know the sender, check the details of where the email came from. You can usually do this by tapping or hovering over the avatar of the email sender. This should tell you who exactly has sent the email and whether you can trust it.
Finally, before clicking on a link in an email, check where it will send you to. On a mobile, if you long press the link, it should tell you which site you’ll go to, and you can tell whether it’s going to a legitimate website.
- Use a VPN on public networks
Ordering groceries on your lunch break or buying new shoes over coffee can have you browsing on public networks.
This can be dangerous when entering your card details because anyone else connected to the public WiFi can access your information. To stop anyone from seeing your payment details online, download a VPN, and you can make sure you’re shopping securely, no matter the network.
- Be careful how much information you give
Your personal information has a lot of value to fraudsters and scammers online.
You might come across a shopping site that asks for more information than it really needs so it can sell or use your data for criminal activities. Think if you really need to hand over your social security number or the name of your first pet to buy that cute t-shirt.
If you get asked for more than your card details and shipping information, take a step back and think about how much you trust the website.
- Don’t be seduced by a deal
We all love a bargain; that’s half the fun of online shopping.
However, some offers can be too good to be true. Scammers will send you emails or show you adverts that are super tempting to get you too excited to think twice about handing over your card details.
The chances of you ever getting a $1,000 pair of sneakers for $200 is pretty slim, so be skeptical of what you see online.
- Keep track of your spending
It’s not always easy to keep up with what you order online – ever had a surprise package arrive that you don’t remember ordering?
You should keep a record of everything you order and match it up to your bank statement or credit card bill. This will help you spot any transactions that weren’t you and need reporting to your bank.
Have your mobile banking app on your phone with notifications turned on where possible so you can see what happens with your money in real-time.
- Use virtual cards
Virtual cards have been around for a little while and are becoming more common.
Put simply, your bank issues you with a set of credit or debit card details that are only for use online. You enter these details into websites like normal, but they’re not linked to your physical card. If someone steals your virtual card details, you don’t lose access to your card, and you can get a new one immediately.
Some banks can even issue time-limited virtual cards, so even if your details are stolen, they will become useless within a matter of weeks.
Safer online shopping
Shopping online can feel a little detached from reality since you don’t get what you want in your hands right away. The threat of having your card details stolen is very real, though, so you need to take sensible steps to make sure you’re having fun and being safe when browsing online.