Online Shopping: How to Stay Safe Online
Online shopping has become the most convenient way to make purchases. Shopping online allows customers to research products, read customer reviews, and shop around for the best prices. Services like Amazon Prime allow free two day shipping, and now customers in some locations can receive same day shipping on many products. But with all this convenience comes a lot of vulnerability. Hackers, fake websites, and even fake companies can scam online shoppers out of their money. Below are some tips to remain safe when shopping online.
Never use a Public Computer or Public Network
When making online purchases, you should always use your own computer and especially never use a public computer at a café. Computers that you do not have control over may have key loggers installed on them that record every keystroke you make, allowing someone else to steal all the information that you typed such as your name, address, and credit card information.
Not only is it dangerous to use a public network to make purchases, but hackers can also easily access your personal network if it is not password protected and encrypted. Encryption scrambles your data into cyphertext so that only the intended party can decrypt it to read the actual plaintext message.
Examine the Store Website
You should only shop from reputable stores with adequate websites. Be wary of stores that you have never heard of. The website should have links that actually work and include customer service contact information. Any website that asks you for personally identifiable information and especially credit card information should use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to protect your information. Any easy way to determine if a website is using SSL is to look for “HTTPS” at the beginning of the website URL instead of just “HTTP”. Some browsers may also display a padlock icon as well to denote the use of SSL.
Avoid fake websites and phishing schemes. A phishing scheme is any scheme that uses websites or emails that impersonate legitimate websites and emails in order to steal personally identifiable information. If you receive a sketchy email that gives you a link, Google the company’s website and navigate to the page instead of trusting the link. One effective method of detecting phishing websites is to examine the URL and pay special attention to the part of the web address that comes before the .com.
Credit Cards: Safest Form of Payment
Credit Cards and Paypal are the safest means of payment for online purchases. There is often no way to recover cash or even debit card payments that are used for scam purchases. Paying with cash significantly eliminates an audit trail, making difficult to even prove that a payment was made. Credit card companies offer fraud protection and do not hold cardholders responsible for fraudulent charges. Credit card users receive protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
When shopping online, you are responsible for your own safety. Use your head and be smart. If something seems to be too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Protect your information and never give out your social security number or too much personal information. Check your credit card statements regularly and keep receipts and payment confirmations.
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