As fraudsters and hackers are polishing their techniques, identity theft and online shopping fraud cases are rising every year. Most online shoppers are unaware of these threats and of the simple rules that can make online shopping safe. If you want to protect your money and your identity, you need to take certain precautionary measures.
Some of the most important things that we will discuss throughout this article are the importance of shopping only on HTTPS websites, choosing only legitimate stores, avoiding URL shorteners, being careful when using public WiFi, and choosing the best free VPN for your PC.
Why is online shopping so risky?
Although it feels like a completely safe way to purchase things, online shopping can actually be quite risky. In order for it to be safe, online shopping needs two things: (1) smart consumers who take precautionary measures to keep their personal information secure and (2) legitimate online stores that care about the security of their customers.
The problem with online threats like hacking and identity theft is that they are not visible. There are no footprints, no broken windows, and no pickpockets to chase. Unfortunately, hackers are caught rarely, if ever, and incidents of online theft target millions of unsuspecting online shoppers every year.
Only shop from websites that start with HTTPS
When you access the website of an online shop, make sure that the link starts with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) instead of HTTP. The HTTPS ensures that your personal details are encrypted and that shopping on that website is safe. It is generally thought that if the website’s admin went through the trouble of implementing the HTTPS, then they care about the safety of their customers. Although this doesn’t guarantee that the website is super-secure, it is much safer than a regular HTTP website.
Hackers are very creative and they always find new ways to scam and steal from the users. One of their techniques is redirecting the unsuspecting users to an illegitimate website that looks extremely similar to the original. This type of website is known as a spoof URL and in order to avoid this trap, it is important to check whether the URL looks legitimate. Before entering your credit card details, or any other important information, double-check the link to ensure that you are shopping on the right website.
Double-check the link
You might think that you are shopping on Amazon, but the link might look suspicious. If, instead of Amazon dot com, the link is “e-Amazon”, or “Amazone”, then you know that the website is not legitimate. If that is the case, you need to delete your account and any information you’ve entered and leave the website.
Be careful when accessing URL shorteners
Marketers like to use URL shorteners because they can make long and difficult to remember URLs less unsightly. However, short URLs are also used by scammers to prevent the users from knowing what website they are actually visiting. Whenever you see an advertisement that looks interesting and that has a URL shortener, instead of clicking it, try accessing the brand’s website directly. You will probably find the same deal on the website, and if you don’t, then the ad might have been a scam.
There is nothing wrong with URL shorteners, but if you click them, always make sure that the website you are directed to looks legitimate.
Avoid shopping online while using a public WiFi
Shopping online while using a public WiFi can be quite dangerous, as you can never know who owns these networks. The recent explosion of public WiFi has been an incredible thing and we should be grateful for it, but we should also be cautious. These internet access points are available in restaurants, airports, hotels, bookstores, universities, and pretty much everywhere else, so connecting to one is extremely convenient. But this convenience comes at a price and only a few people are aware of the risks associated with these connections.
The best way to protect your safety is by avoiding online shopping on public WiFi altogether. These networks are the perfect place for scams and theft. However, avoiding public WiFi is not always an option and, luckily, there are many ways to improve your security and ensure that your connection is secure.
Use a VPN to make online shopping safer
An extremely effective security precaution is using a VPN (Virtual Private Connection) which will encrypt your connection and will ensure that your credit card details and online banking accounts are safe. Whenever you are using a VPN it becomes almost impossible for hackers and scammers to use your data, as it is strongly encrypted. And since most hackers prefer easy targets, they will probably leave your information alone rather than making additional efforts towards decrypting it. There are many different VPNs available out there, some are even 100% free of charge. It is important to choose one that fits your needs. It might be a good idea to use a free VPN at first and then to find the perfect one and understand the concept of VPN.
To sum up, although it’s usually safe, online shopping can sometimes be risky. In order to avoid having your personal details stolen by scammers, always double-check the links, avoid websites that don’t have an HTTPS, and try using a VPN whenever you want to shop from a public Wi-Fi network.