How do you shop safely online this Black Friday?
Shopping safely and securely online
As technology progresses, more items than ever before are available to buy online, from clothing and food to plane tickets and hotel rooms. With an infinite number of choices online, all available from the comfort of your own home and without the hustle and bustle of crowds in a shop, online shopping is a convenient and easy alternative to shopping in-store. However, before you embark on an online shopping spree, ensure you are aware of the security risks when shopping online and how to protect yourself. While you don’t have to be concerned about pick pockets while shopping online, there are still malicious hackers looking to steal personal data and financial information. Follow our savvy online shopping guide and you can shop online with confidence.
- Make sure you’re buying from a real online shop
It is vital to always shop using familiar websites which have received good reviews from previous customers. Malicious hackers are known for setting up fake shopping websites to either infect your computer with viruses and malware, or to steal your payment information during the ‘checkout’ process. Hackers can use your information for identity theft and credit card fraud.
How to spot a fake online shop:
- A peculiar URL – for example, if the shop is called very-cheap-shoes.com the chances of the website being genuine are very slim.
- Strange contact information – most online shops will have their own business email, for example firstname.lastname@example.org as opposed to email@example.com.
- Very low prices – If the online shop is selling an expensive product for less than half the retail price, it is most likely a scam.
- Bad language – A reputable company will hire a copywriter to ensure all content on the website is written with no mistakes. Any grammar or spelling mistakes are a huge warning sign.
- Bad design – Online shops, especially those in the fashion industry, take pride in their modern and sleek website design. If a website is designed badly and is hard to use, it could possibly be a scam.
- Is it a secure site?
When shopping online, make sure to check the website has SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption installed. You will know a website has this by checking that the URL begins with https:// instead of http://, and a small lock symbol should appear in the URL bar.
- Use strong passwords
It is common for people to use multiple online shopping sites for different products, this will often require making multiple accounts storing personal and financial details. It is important to ensure the passwords for these accounts are not the same as this is a huge security risk. We advise the use of password generators to create long complex passwords which are almost impossible for hackers to crack.
- Check your bank for irregular activity
For those who frequently shop online on multiple websites, it can be difficult to keep track of the transactions made, therefore we advise shoppers to keep a personal record of what has been purchased, which website you used and how much money was spent.
Don’t wait for your monthly statements to check your bank transactions, make sure to check either online or in store regularly in order to increase your chance of spotting fraudulent activity or purchases you didn’t make promptly. It is vital you notify your bank of any fraudulent activity immediately in order to secure your account and receive any money you didn’t spend back into your account.
- Protect your PC
It is extremely important to have an effective antivirus system on your device, as this is the most basic form of protection when using online services. Installing malware protection will scan incoming and outgoing traffic to your device in attempts to detect any potential malware.
- Beware of scams
There are various phishing emails circulating advertising deals and offers which appear, and most often are, too good to be true. It is often during holiday times when scammers send out viruses and malware concealed as a gift or inclusive offer. Scam emails can be so well designed that they often have higher click rates than legitimate emails from real businesses. In order to outsmart scams we advise shoppers not to open emails from companies they do not recognize or haven’t previously used.
As well as email scams, online shoppers should beware of clicking on advertisements or links on social media websites and around the web. Often pop up websites will advertise attractive deals, however it is important to carry out research to determine if the advert is genuine and has genuine customers, or if it is a scam.
- Avoid using debit card
When online shopping, it is advisable to use credit cards or services such as PayPal, as opposed to debit cards. Debit cards are riskier to use due to them being linked to your bank account, and are at a higher risk of exposing personal information if hacked. Credit cards offer shoppers more protection and less liability if card details are stolen.
- Stay private
Wi-Fi has become a daily part of modern life, however it does have limitations. It is important to never shop online using a public or open Wi-Fi which isn’t password protected, as this could allow a hacker to hijack all your traffic, allowing them to track all your activity while you are shopping, including your passwords, emails, addresses, personal and financial information. We recommend avoiding public hotspots when online shopping, as these are most likely unsecured.
- Be smart about apps
While mobile phone apps are a convenient method of online shopping, there are various deceptive apps on the market which have been made to steal your information. Ensure to only download apps from reliable sources such as the Apple App Store or Android Market. When using an app for shopping pay attention to the permissions the app asks for. If the app asks to access information such as your contacts, or any other suspicious activity, it is best to avoid it.
- Don’t give extra information
Most online shops will only require payment information and shipping information. If a store asks for extra information such as your date of birth, National Insurance Number or any other suspicious details, be wary of using such websites, as they could be attempting to steal personal information.
Online shopping has become increasingly popular and also a growing concern among security experts. Various methods of protection have been introduced to help increase security of online shoppers, from two-factor authentication to improved protection software’s, so we’re optimistic the future of online shopping could be more secure.
We hope that this blog has given you some great tips to protect your next online shopping spree and is a reminder that it’s not just your home security you need to be savvy about. Check out some of our other blogs for other security tips you may not have thought of.