5 Ways to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

Woman on the beach | EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
Woman on the beach | EyesWideOpen/Getty Images /

If you’re considering a purchase, your first instinct is likely to forgo the mall and shop online. Perhaps you saw a new outfit that you just can’t live without or a pair of shoes that are just waiting to be taken off the shelves. Whatever the reason is, online shopping is a convenient and popular way to buy products from the comfort of your home. However, with this convenience comes the risk of compromising your financial information and personal data. A recent AARP survey found that more than one third of U.S. shoppers were scammed after trying to purchase a product through an online advertisement. Read on to learn how you can keep your information secure.

Identify safe websites

One of the first steps to ensuring your online safety is to identify secure websites. Make sure the site is safe before providing your personal or financial information. Here are some features to look for:

  • Secure connection (HTTPS): Check the website’s URL. Secure websites use “https://” instead of “http://” at the beginning of their address. The “s” stands for secure, and it indicates your data is encrypted during transmission, making it harder for hacker interception.
  • Padlock symbol: Look for a padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar. This symbol indicates the website uses encryption to protect your data.
  • Verifiable contact information: Legitimate websites usually provide clear contact information, including an address and phone number. If this information is missing or difficult to find, it might be a red flag.
  • Customer reviews: Reading customer reviews can provide insight into the website’s reputation. Look for reviews on independent platforms to ensure they’re genuine.

Tips for safe online shopping

Once you confirm the safety of a website, you still have a few more steps to take. Here are five ways to keep your data secure while shopping online:

  1. Use strong and unique passwords: Create strong passwords for your online accounts, combining letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using the same password across multiple websites to prevent a domino effect if one account gets compromised.
  2. Use two-factor authentication: Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security beyond your password by requiring that a verification code is sent to your phone or email account.
  3. Use caution with personal information: Avoid providing unnecessary personal information during the checkout process. Legitimate online retailers usually require only essential details for processing your order.
  4. Monitor your accounts: Regularly check your bank and credit card statements. If you notice any suspicious activity, report it to your financial institution immediately.
  5. Use trusted payment methods: Stick to well-known and reputable payment methods, such as credit cards or trusted third-party payment processors like PayPal. These methods offer added protection against fraud.

What to do if you’re scammed

Despite taking precautions, scams can still happen. Fortunately, you still have options. If you made a payment with a credit card, immediately contact your card issuer, and explain the situation. Your issuer can suggest next steps and possibly reverse any unauthorized charges. Also, make sure to report the scam by filing a complaint with the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Complaints can be made when you visit reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Furthermore, don’t forget to change your passwords. If you suspect your login credentials were compromised, it’s important to update passwords for all of your online accounts as soon as possible.

So, while online shopping is definitely the more convenient route to take when purchasing your favorite items, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your personal information. By recognizing safe websites and using strong passwords, you can minimize the risk of getting scammed. Stay alert and act quickly so you can protect yourself and your money.

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