Use these tips to stay safe while shopping online

Wherever you find yourself in the country, e-tailers (online retailers) have made it easier than ever before to do all your shopping without even having to leave your home – provided you have access to the internet, of course.

While some people have embraced online shopping as one of the main ways they carry out purchases, a great many are still wary of venturing into the aisles of online retailers, spooked by horror stories about money getting stolen faster than you can say, “add to cart”.

However, when taking small security measures, online shopping doesn’t have to be any less safe than getting into your car and heading to the nearest mall. Here’s how.

1. Use trusted online retailers

The biggest and most trusted online shopping retailers take all possible measures to ensure that your shopping experience is protected, employing a robust series of security protocols to keep your information safe, which is exactly why you should rather shop on a trusted site than taking a chance on a retailer you don’t know or have never heard of.

If you are using an online retailer that you aren’t familiar with for the first time, make sure that you are able to find a physical address and contact number to follow up, should you not receive your order. Bookmark the shopping sites you trust for easy access the next time you are looking for something, and use the internet to research a new company before completing purchases – in this regard, Scambuster is a great local resource.

2. Pay attention to the URL

Take note that scamsters often trick users into using a website that is very similar to that of a trusted retailer, save perhaps the final part of the URL being “.net” instead of “.com”, for instance – don’t fall into this common trap. In fact, when doing online shopping, it is imperative that you carefully examine the entire URL at the top of your browser to make sure a website is secure.

Secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption is built into websites you can trust. To verify this, look at how the website URL is written out in your browser’s address bar: it is secure when the website address starts with HTTPS instead of just HTTP. You should also keep an eye out for an icon that looks like a locked padlock, typically found to the left of the web address.

3. Use two-factor authentication methods

Having two-factor authentication set up for purchases linked to your bank account enables you to authorise online transactions a second time before they actually go through. Trusted websites make use of secure payment systems like PayU and are certified by organisations like VeriSign, Verified and SecureCode. Once you complete a purchase with your Mastercard or VISA card, you will then receive a one-time pin (OTP), which needs to be entered before a transaction will be completed, keeping your information safe and setting your mind at ease.

4. Keep your browser up to date and secure

Annoying as they may be, browser updates are there to update the system and its apps in order to keep users safe from vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Keeping your browser and antivirus software up to date will keep the sticky fingers of online sleuths out of your business.

5. Choose your password wisely

A strong password is the single biggest defense you have against the ill-intentioned crooks of the web, so you’d better make it a good one. Make sure that all of your online accounts have their own unique passwords, consisting of at least 8 characters and made up of letters, numbers and symbols. Keep your passwords somewhere safe, change them on a regular basis, and check out these tips for creating passwords that cannot be easily cracked by hackers.

6. Avoid public networks while shopping online

Public Wi-Fi is often a godsend when you’re low on mobile data, but using a public network to do online shopping is highly unadvisable. Public networks can be easily infiltrated by those that know how to, putting your personal information at risk. If you are doing online shopping, rather make use of your secure Wi-Fi connection at home or by using mobile data.

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