Shopping online has become more popular than ever. While there are myriad advantages of browsing and buying on the web, there are also drawbacks. One concern shoppers may have is safety. If you are shopping online, it’s essential to make sure that you visit secure sites and you buy from reputable, trustworthy brands. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to know if a shopping website is safe.
How to shop safely online
Statistics from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center revealed that the most common example of cybercrime in over 50% of US states in 2019 was non-payment or delivery of goods purchased online. When you shop online, you want to make sure that the sites you are using are secure and that you are buying from companies that are going to fulfil their promises. There are risks associated with accessing, sharing and using personal data, hacks and security breaches and buying products, which never materialise. To minimise the chances of experiencing problems when using shopping websites, it’s crucial to know how to spot a safe, secure, reputable site.
Here are some steps to take and some signs to look out for when browsing and buying online:
- Look for a privacy statement: privacy statements outline how websites and companies collect, store and use data provided by customers and clients. Check for a privacy statement before you enter your details into a website and take a few moments to read the text and make sure you understand what it means.
- Look for the lock: when you go online, it’s always beneficial to check for the padlock sign, which is usually visible at the top of the page to the left of the URL. If there is a padlock, this means that the site is protected by SSL (secure sockets layer). The URL will appear as https, rather than http. If you can’t see a padlock, navigate away from the site.
- Search for contact details: reputable retailers and businesses will usually include contact details on their websites, including a full address, email addresses and contact telephone numbers.
- Opt for well-known, familiar, popular sites: the Internet provides access to independent stores and retailers and brands that are less well-known than chains and high-profile businesses, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. While shoppers have access to a wider range of products and unique items, there is also a risk of using websites that aren’t safe or buying from a business that is not legitimate. To enhance safety, try to opt for well-known sites and brands you’ve heard of before.
- Look out for red-flag signs: it’s always useful to use your intuition when shopping online but it can also be helpful to keep your eyes peeled for red-flag signs, including spelling and grammatical mistakes, language that doesn’t read well or make sense, a lack of contact details and reviews, missing information about delivery and returns, and images and copy that have been taken from other sites.
- Take care when providing personal information: when you place an order online, you will need to provide delivery details and make a payment but it’s important to be wary of sites that ask for additional information, which may not be required to complete the order. No retailer will need to know your social security number or your date of birth, for example.
- Use a credit card where possible: if you’re planning to buy an item on a shopping website, it’s wise to look for sites that accept credit card payments. Credit cards offer better protection than debit cards. You can also use platforms like PayPal to avoid entering your card details.
- Shop with a secure connection: whether you are spending a few dollars or hundreds of pounds, it is critical to understand the importance of shopping with a secure connection. Always make sure that you are using a private, secure network if you are making payments online. Avoid using public, open networks.
- Create strong, unique passwords: passwords can help to bolster security but they don’t make shoppers invincible. Choose a unique, strong password that is impossible to guess and change your passwords frequently. It’s best to try and include symbols and numbers and a mixture of capital and small letters and to avoid names and important dates.
- Search for site reviews: over 90% of consumers now check online reviews before making a purchase online or visiting a website. If you’re unsure whether a site is legitimate, or you have concerns about a business or brand, search for reviews and ratings online. It’s a good idea to steer clear of sites that have no reviews and low scores.
Shopping online is quick, easy and convenient and it can also save you money and provide access to a huge array of products. If you’re looking to buy online, always make sure that the shopping websites you use are secure and safe. Look out for red flags, check security certificates and privacy statements, read reviews, pay with a credit card and always make sure you are connected to a private, secured network.