Shopping Online Safely

As we approach the holiday season, it is common for people to shop online.  However shopping online can be dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. Tech Lab has put together a list of 7 ways to keep you safe.

Protect the device you are using to shop with.

If you are using a computer, make sure it has antivirus software and malware protection.

Protect your Internet connection.

If you are on the same connection as other people, you want to be able to trust that they are not going to hack your connection.  You cannot trust this on public WiFi (e.g., Internet provided by Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, etc.).  If you have any questions about the security of the connection you are using, use your phone’s data.  Your own secured home WiFi should be protected as well.

To app or not to app?:

App shopping can be safer than online shopping, but it can also be a source of scams if you choose the wrong app.  If you use an app for online shopping, use the app designed by the company.  Check reviews for the app to see how it does.  Make sure the company is regularly updating it.  Set the app’s security settings the way that you want them on your mobile device.

  • An app that Tech Lab recommends to help you find the best deals is Honey Smart Shopping Assistant. It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.
  • Rakuten is also an app that pays you for your purchases you make online.  It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.

Make sure you are using a site that you trust to do your shopping. 

How to know if you should trust the site:

  • Scams tend to appear long enough to get your money, and then they have to move out of town.  So first make sure that they are a company.  If you know their name from somewhere else and know people who have successfully ordered from there, they have passed this test.
  • You can also check the reviews of a site you have never heard of before.  Use other sites to check their reviews and not their own site.  They can change the reviews on their site, but it is harder to do on other sites.  If you cannot find any reviews on other sites, then these sites are more likely to be scams.  If the reviews are bad, do not make your purchases here.
  • For sites whose names you do know, make sure you are on their site.  For brick and mortar stores, you can ask their website address in store.  When typing the address in, however, be careful.  If you type the address and change one letter, you will not go to the website you want.  You can also type the name of the store into a good search engine, and odds are that the first link will take you to the site you want to be on.
  • The e-mails that you receive from companies you do not know are the most likely to try and scam you.  Do not click on links in their e-mails!  Even companies you do know track people who click on their e-mails.  It is much safer to go to the website and type in a coupon code there than it is to follow an e-mailed link.
  • Check out their delivery, exchange, return, and privacy policies.  If there is a problem with your purchase, what is their policy?


Check that the Website is Secured 

Now that you have checked out the site, make sure the website has been secured.  When the site asks for your payment information, make sure that the website address starts with https:// and that there is a padlock by the address.  If not, it is not safe.

Make Sure You Stay Safe with an Account

Many sites will ask you to make accounts.  Here are some ways to make sure you stay safe with an account:

  • Make sure you choose a good password for your account, especially if you have payment information.  Change the password from other passwords you may use.  A good password is 10-16 characters long and includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.  It is not only comprised of individual words.
  • Look at the security settings for your account.  Some payment accounts will send you notifications if it thinks it may not be you making changes to the account.  Other accounts will allow you to set up multi-factor authentication so that it is not just the password authenticating you.
  • Don’t save your payment information. It is more convenient to save it, but if the website ever gets hacked, your payment information will go to the hacker too.


Protect Your Payment Information

Here are a few tips to protecting your payment information:

  • A good online store will accept major credit cards.  It will not require money orders or electronic funds transfers (EFTs).  If it requires money orders or EFTs, then do not use this site.
  • Credit cards are protected from fraud in ways that debit cards generally are not. Tech Lab recommends using a credit card for online shopping, as opposed to a debit card.  Be sure to check your credit card regularly for charges you didn’t make.
  • If you don’t check your statements regularly, you can also use a Visa gift card or similar card.  This is also better than a debit card because the amount possible for you to lose to scammers is more limited.
  • There are several services that you can use that will protect your payment information in online transactions.  Examples are Paypal, Apple Pay, and one-time credit card numbers.  You have less fraud protection with these than you do with a credit card, but it protects the credit card number.  This may be a problem if you want to make a return or need to show the credit card to verify your identity.

Choose Your Address Carefully

Finally, consider where you are having your packages delivered and who will be there when they arrive.  Some people steal other people’s packages.  You can sometimes have your packages delivered to a secured location to protect them, like the local UPS location or to a shipping locker.  In other cases, you can put in specific delivery instructions.

Need Help?

If you run into problems or are not sure what to do please call someone to help you. Tech Lab can be reached at 414-208-4682.