5 Security Tips for Online Shoppers

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Written by Amy Cavendish on behalf of TechFools.

You would be hard-pressed to meet somebody who doesn’t shop online these days. Even members of the “golden” older generations spend their money on websites and digital services. 

According to the Guardian, more than 50 percent of people aged 65 and older buy over the internet. And as you’d expect, the percentage of people who shop online is much higher as you move into the younger generations. In 2019, CNBC reported that ecommerce spending had overtaken spending in traditional stores for the first time.

On average, South African shoppers spend more online than buyers in other African nations, a trend that is likely to continue with an increasing number of SA retailers placing a stronger focus on non-traditional retail methods. 

Shopping online is convenient and there are plenty of reasons to ditch shopping trips in favour of virtual forays, but there is a downside to ecommerce — the potential for your financial information to be compromised or stolen.

Staying secure while shopping online is essential, particularly when you consider how the number and intensity of cyber attacks have increased in recent years. With that in mind, below are five top cyber security tips for online shoppers.

1. Check the website’s security certificate

It’s easy to get wrapped up in a digital shopping frenzy and let the basics slide, especially when you finally spot the perfect Christmas present for that one relative who’s impossible to buy for. But making sure the cyber security basics are in order is one of the best ways to stay safe. 

You should always shop on websites that have an HTTPS security certificate. You can quickly and easily check this by looking for the small lock icon to the left of your browser’s address bar, you’ll also see HTTPS in the website’s full address.

If you’ve found a store that you trust, but it’s not secure, you can use HTTPS Everywhere, a service that secures previously unsecured websites.

2. Don’t trust online stores automatically

Not everything is as it seems, both in life and online. And this holds true for those amazing offers that crop up on your Facebook feed, for example. The rise of paid advertisements in social media channels, and the surprising lack of regulation, means there are plenty of dodgy ecommerce shops selling cheap knock-offs. Or collecting payments but not actually selling anything.

If you’re not sure how legitimate a site is, check its ratings on TrustPilot or another trusted third-party review source. You can also check the domain’s history, if a shop has owned a certain domain for just a week or two, for example, it may not be as reliable as other retailers.

3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Using a VPN for security is one of the smartest things you can do if you shop online often. A VPN creates a private browsing network through a process called tunnelling, and in the process, it also encrypts any data transmissions you send or receive. 

So when you input your credit card details to buy your mum a bunch of flowers, for instance, and your VPN is turned on, that activity and sensitive financial information is hidden from any would-be hackers. The usage of a VPN is essential when making purchases over unsecured public wifi networks.

4. Don’t let your browser save your credit card details

We’re all guilty of this one because it’s so much more convenient to auto-fill your card details as opposed to entering them with each purchase. But having your details saved can set you up for an attack.

Try to avoid letting Safari or Google save your details.

5. Be careful of fake shopping apps

Plenty of big retailers have their own dedicated shopping apps. Buying from your favourite store via these apps is fast, easy, and generally safe, so long as the app is legitimate.

Unfortunately, there are a number of fraudulent shopping apps masquerading as the real deal. Make sure you download the genuine app by checking reviews in the app store.

[Image – CC0 Pixabay]

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