Online shopping is becoming more prevalent all around the globe, with consumers everywhere more likely to purchase something via credit card and online than with cash in a brick and mortar store. Studies in 2015 predicted that we would surpass 645 billion pounds spent online by 2018 and conservative reports estimate that we are well on the way to smashing that prediction. E-commerce, then, has changed the way people spend money.
Of course, the more money spent online, the more criminals will look to stick their hands into this pie and take a piece. Unfortunately, the Internet is rife with people looking to take advantage of the affordability and accessibility of e-commerce, and this creates an environment that criminals can exploit. As such, when spending money online, it is imperative that one is careful. Below, I’ve prepared six tips to protect yourself when spending money online.
- Limit your spending to trusted brand names
Popular, well-known brands are always best when it comes to online shopping. This is true regardless of where you’re looking to spend your money, and what you’re looking to buy. The more popular a brand is, the more positive reviews it has received, the more likely it is that the brand in question has invested in top grade e-security measures. Not to mention, more popular brands usually mean that the quality of the product/service is vouched for, too.
Unfortunately, popular brands are usually the biggest victims of copycat websites and phishers, who will look to ride off the fame in question and get you to divulge sensitive information. Whilst phishing is hardly a new phenomenon, the technology some phishers are working with is astounding, with the best phishers boasting a success rate of 45%.
- Avoid using Debit cards online – stick to secure payment methods
Debit cards, being linked to your actual bank account, are the most exposed and therefore most vulnerable way of paying. Credit cards, surprisingly, are a far safer option when looking to pay online. They aren’t linked to your bank account and usually come with additional safety measures like limits on amounts spent, secondary and more control mechanisms when making purchases and a cooling off period, during which transactions that are picked up as fraudulent can be reversed.
Even better than credit cards are secure online payment services, like those offered by PayPal or Ukash (which is offered by Smart Voucher Limited). These companies act as middlemen between the service provider and the consumer and create an extra layer of protection and anonymity when paying online. No credit or debit cards are needed when making use of these services. No personal information need even be shared, limiting your exposure. These secure payment services are not limited to buying goods but are accepted in a variety of sectors. Even online casinos accept secure payment services (here is a list of online casinos that accept Ukash payment).
- Where possible, only submit personal information via secure web pages
All websites are not created equal. The best ones are equipped with an online safety protocol (a layer of security encryption invented by Netscape). You’ll know that a website is secure because the URL will start with https and/or will have a padlock symbol next to it. You can also view a website’s security details by hitting F12 on your keyboard and then clicking on the security link.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is
One of the best parts of the Internet is the amazing deals. By cutting out the cost of owning and operating a brick and mortar store, advertising and associated costs, most online retailers can offer goods and services at a fraction of what they would otherwise be sold at. Additionally, the community aspect of the Internet means that people can more easily connect with people who want to buy their second hand or homemade goods, at better costs than they would have been available for normally (if at all).
However, as many great deals as one might find on the Internet, there are more scamsters. Usually, when an offer seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. Nigerian princes won’t email you offering a percentage of their gold fortune in exchange for 1500 USD. You are almost never going to be eligible for a free iPhone for being the one-millionth visitor to a website. Scamsters can look to infect your device(s), steal your personal details or, at worst, take advantage of your credit info. Avoid amazing deals, unless you can verify their veracity.
- Stay off public Wi-Fi networks when shopping online
Free Wi-Fi is no longer an added extra – consumers to coffee shops, restaurants and airports now see it as a right, especially in first world countries. It’s so prevalent that many travelers do not even try and set up a means of data communication in foreign countries – opting instead to rely on free public Wi-Fi.
Whilst free Wi-Fi is great; you should avoid using public Wi-Fi to pay for products online. The public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, meaning that it’s a lot easier for malicious third parties to intercept information shared over them. As a general rule, only submit information over public Wi-Fi signals that you do not mind being seen by the general public.
If you follow these five tips, you are likely to stay safe and risk-free spending your hard-earned cash online.