Shopping online is convenient and affordable but also full of potential dangers. While shopping for the best price and quickest shipping, hackers could track you, ready to grab your personal and financial information. As you shop online, it's important to do all you can to protect yourself. Follow the steps below to ensure that your online safety is not compromised.
The first step to ensuring your online safety may be the easiest and most important tip. Up-to-date browsers have the latest security protocols in place. Antivirus software also needs to be updated. Only shop online if both of these are in place.
If you don’t know the business you’re shopping with, research before buying. The Better Business Bureau and TRUSTe are great places to start. Look for these organizations' seals, then double-check that they are verified through these sites. If these tools don’t give you the information you need, Google the company and the word “scam” to see if anything pops up from past shoppers.
While shopping online, use a secure internet connection with an enabled firewall. While you might think you're protected, know that just an antivirus program alone isn't enough. You'll also want a firewall to protect you from hackers.
Similarly, check the website to ensure it's secure and displays https:// in the address bar. If you're shopping through a wireless network, use an encrypted network. Never make financial transactions on a public network, like your local coffee shop, since you don't know how safe it is.
When shopping online, you should share specific things, including:
In rare instances, such as if your purchase is for something that is age-restricted, you may need to share your birthday. Anything else, like your driver's license or Social Security number, and you need to walk away. Give as little data as possible and only what is absolutely necessary to complete the purchase.
If you're in the habit of using the same password or variations of the same password from multiple sites, your online safety could be at risk. If one site gets hacked, the hacker can access the rest. Create unique passwords for each site and make them strong by using random strings of characters. Use a password management tool to keep track of each one.
We have all been there, scrolling on our phones, and an ad with some great stuff at super low prices pops up. TEMPTING! But with regards to online safety, not only do you need to ensure the website is trustworthy, but you also need to ensure the seller is. If you aren't familiar with the company or site you are shopping, look up their online reputation to ensure they are legitimate. Otherwise, stick with retailers or sellers you know.
Paying with a debit or credit card may provide some built-in fraud protection and helps with our goal of online safety. In contrast, if you pay through Western Union, Venmo, or another transfer process, you may not be able to get your money back if you're scammed. Use your credit card statement to check for unapproved online purchases as well. If you can't use a credit debit card, consider PayPal, which offers similar protections.
Once you have made your online purchases, your task is not fully complete. After you make a purchase, tracking your purchase is just as important. Know when it's shipped and where it is between when you buy it and when you get it in your hands. This may be a red flag if the tracking looks off or delayed.
Nothing is more disappointing than receiving an item you purchased online and realizing it is different from what you wanted. Then you have the added hassle of returning your purchases. Ensure you can return the item if it doesn't work for you. A quality website and online shop will have fair return and refund policies, and one that's trying to scam you by sending shoddy items will not.
That’s a long list of things to check, but each of these can give you insight into the trustworthiness of your online store. Here’s what to look for:
Everyone is at risk for online safety problems. If you do get scammed, don't wait. File a complaint with the company, but if that doesn't get you somewhere, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. You can also file a complaint with your bank or credit card to attempt to recover some of your money. For additional safety tips, check out our alerts and safeguards page.
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This content is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Individual circumstances and current events are critical to sound investment planning; anyone wishing to act on this information should consult with a financial professional. The information contained in these articles was obtained from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publishing. We do not represent that it is accurate or complete, and it should not be relied upon as such. All opinions and estimates expressed in this article are as of publication date unless otherwise indicated, and are subject to change.