Millions of us have switched to the convenience of shopping online. From great deals to easier product discovery, online shopping have us all hooked. Platforms such as Amazon has also paired up their premium subscriptions to their video and music streaming platform, making online shopping even more lucrative. More and more companies and local stores are signing up, making their stock available online for sale.
Shopping involves money transactions and that means the transfer of sensitive information online. A lot can go wrong when you are trying to shop online. In the worst case, your password or your credit card information may get stolen. So, right before the festive deals and holidays, here are few things that you need to keep in mind before you start splurging.
1. Protect your system
No matter what system you are using, be it a Windows PC, or an Android or iOS smartphone, all of these devices have vulnerabilities. Before you go online and start shopping, it is quite important to check that your device is free from malware.
All major operating systems have anti-malware programs designed to scan and remove malware. Malwarebytes, available on Android and Windows, is designed to scan and remove malware including potentially unwanted or misleading software. Free antivirus programs offered by antivirus vendors such as AVG, Avast, Bitdefender and so on also offer real-time protection from viruses. Some scanners are offered free of cost to scan and remove malware. The most popular ones are Emsisoft Emergency Kit, Kaspersky Virus Removal tool, Norton Power Eraser and MacAfee Stinger. These do not require any installation and can run on your PC right after the download.
So, before you go online, make sure that your PC or phone is not infected.
2. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
When you are using free public Wi-Fi, your data is not encrypted. This means anyone in range can see what data is being transferred between you and the Wi-Fi router. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are often the ground zero for cybercrimes. In many cases, cybercriminals can also set up Wi-Fi that masquerades a legitimate public Wi-Fi. Your personal data is stolen once you connect to that Wi-Fi. So, in general, it is advised to not use public Wi-Fi at all. Your cellular data connection is way more secure.
However, if you need to use public Wi-Fi, then it is better to use a VPN or Tor. Using a VPN is easier – it tunnels and encrypts your internet traffic so no one other than you and the website you are connecting to can see what data is being transferred. VPNs provide security from man-in-the-middle attacks.
3. Shop only at secure sites
Identifying secure sites is easy. Just check for the green lock symbol in the address bar. Moreover, sites using a secure connection will also use “HTTPS:” instead of “HTTP:”at the beginning of the address. If the “S” is not present, get out of there and shop on a website that has it. Be sure to look for the lock icon and the word “Secure” to the left of the URL to reconfirm that the site is secure. In fact, it’s safe to recommend that you always look for HTTPS on every site you visit.
HTTPS encrypts the internet traffic, similar to a VPN. Also, make sure you check the spelling of the website. Instead of going to the website directly, you can also go via Bing or Google to make sure you are going to the correct website. A DNS hack can often redirect you to a malicious masquerading website.
4. Check out as a guest
Many websites offer you to shop without creating an account. Use this mode when you are not using your home network to sign in. Also, it is always better to give a little information as possible when buying online. You never know when a site gets hacked, exposing all your account details. The less of your personal info that is floating out on the net, the less likely it is that it’ll be stolen in a data breach. After all, legitimate shopping sites should only really need your credit card, and your billing and shipping addresses. So, if they are asking for things like date of birth, social security number, etc., BE WARY. Also, once you’ve input your payment details, select the option to NOT store that data. If possible, use a third party payment site.
5. Limit yourself.
Finally, the best option is to limit yourself when shopping online. No, you are not being discouraged from shopping online, but use your credit card as little as possible. Make sure to keep the number of transactions low. Add everything to the cart and check out in one go. Better yet, use a virtual card you’ve earmarked for holiday shopping only. A quick look at the card’s statement will show you if anything’s amiss.