Online shopping is growing rapidly, and within a few years, it will be the most dominant mode of shopping across the globe. There are a lot of reasons to shop online – from the best deals to greater variety, convenience, etc.
The flipside is there are plenty of unscrupulous folks out there, waiting to scam and cheat unsuspecting online shoppers. As per the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center, the leading cybercrime in 2017 was linked to online shopping. Non-payment of goods and phishing were second and third respectively. As per a survey conducted recently, as many as 25% of people have experienced some form of cybercrime.
While the stats may seem alarming, there’s no need to hit the panic button. All it takes is to use common sense and follow some practical guidelines when you shop online.
A few basic guidelines to shop online include:
Shop at a known and reputable site
Preferably, shop online at a reputable and well-recognized site. If you move past the first 40-60 search results, it can be risky. There’s a greater likelihood of getting ripped off. Sites like Amazon.com, Home Depot, Target, etc. are trusted sites where it’s perfectly safe to shop online. Keep an eye out for sites with misspellings on the domain name. While they may offer incredibly enticing prices, they could be counterfeit sites.
Keep an eye out for the padlock
The very first thing to do when planning to use your credit or debit card online is to keep an eye out for SSL (secure socket layer) encryption. Even when using alternate payment methods, ensure that the site is SSL-encrypted. Identifying a site with encryption is easy. Just look for the tiny padlock icon, left of the URL in address or status bar (subject to the type of browser). Any secure site will begin with HTTPS and not HTTP. In fact, HTTPS is now somewhat the norm on non-shopping websites as well. Any site without the S at the end isn’t secure, and will, in all likelihood, be flagged by Google.
Be careful in sharing information online
When shopping online, be wary of any online retail company that asks you for personal information like your date of birth or your social security number to make a purchase. If the information, along with your credit card details, falls into the hands of a cybercriminal, it could be a financial disaster. Scammers are always on the lookout for ingenious and innovative ploys for identity theft. Always share as minimum information as possible online to ensure you don’t fall prey to cybercrime. Remember, even well-known websites face the risk of getting clients’ financial and personal data stolen.
Keep an eye on financial statements
Don’t procrastinate on checking your financial statements as you wait for them to arrive at the end of the month. Get online regularly, and review all electronic financial statements for your debit card, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. Be mindful of any fraudulent charges that may have been made without your consent or knowledge.