Avoiding Online Shopping Scams

Kerry Sherin

Woman with phone. Online payment. Women hands using smartphone and laptop computer for online shopping.(shutterstock / VAKS-Stock Agency)

Online shopping has rapidly changed how we make our daily home purchases. Gone are the days of physically visiting malls and lining up for long hours waiting for service. The internet has made it simple to visit an online retail store, browse, buy, and receive products in no time.

However, the increased ease of shopping from the comfort of home has come with its fair share of challenges. One of the top challenges of online shopping is the security of personal information. The availability of numerous shopping places has made it easier for scammers to devise ways to steal a buyer’s crucial information.

How to avoid online shopping scams

Scamming and phishing information is a common online threat to any buyer. Most online scammers are also creative, coming up with new scams whenever their latest schemes get discovered. Most sites also require lots of your personal information, leaving you vulnerable to numerous phishing schemes.

Here are some of the top tips on how to shop safely online.

Buy from secured sites only.

Closeup on smartphone display screen with https and www url.(shutterstock / Fascinadora)

The worst thing to happen when shopping online is losing your financial information to defrauders. Online shopping sites without the necessary security features are the most targeted by phishing scammers.

The easiest way to separate secure sites from unsecured ones is by checking their URLs. Websites that start with "HTTPS://" are protected. The "s" is a confirmation of an additional layer of security known as a Secured Socket Layer (SSL). Sites beginning with "HTTP://" are not secure, meaning hackers can easily intercept personal and payment information.

Secure sites also have a closed padlock or an unbroken key icon in the address bar. In addition, confirm if the company name appears in the URL, which will help you know if it isn’t an imposter or scam site. Most imposter sites are usually fake online shopping sites that disappear after a short while.

Avoid buying online over public Wi-Fi.

Public Wi-Fi helps when you want to catch up with what's happening or just do some browsing. However, don't be tempted to order anything online while browsing on a public network. Most of these networks lack basic security features, making them the perfect lurking spots for hackers looking to steal your data.

Whether you're in a restaurant or a bus station, there are high chances the available public network has poor security. Hackers can steal crucial data, install malicious software and sneak onto your device. If you share your credit card data, the hackers will seamlessly gain access to your payment info .

A VPN can help you overcome this security threat if you have to use public Wi-Fi to shop. It can easily encrypt the connection to ensure your online banking credentials are safe and out of reach of anybody.

Choose your payment method carefully.

Hands holding credit card and using laptop.(shutterstock / Ivan Kruk)

One of the most important safe practices when shopping online is to pay by credit card only. Shopping with debit cards or giving away your bank account number is highly discouraged because that information connects to your bank details.

Debit cards are directly linked to your bank account, meaning you’ll be at a much higher risk if someone hacks you. Besides, these cards do not have the same security protections as credit cards should a problem arise.

Other than using card payments, you can stick to making payments through the website’s platform if there’s one. Also, avoid sending money for mail-ordered transactions via peer-to-peer money transfer apps like CashApp and Venmo.

Avoid suspicious email links.

Scammers love the holidays because they are the best time to get your information under the guise of a promotion or a gift offer. This is a common and effective method in which you are targeted by carefully-designed emails containing links to a fake URL.

They want you to open the email so they may infect your device with viruses and malware. They'll then phish for vital information without your knowledge and exploit it to their advantage.

Most suspicious and phishing emails often have hard-to-resist promotions and faked order sites to make their deception even more believable. Ignoring these emails is the best approach to avoiding scammers. You should also double-check all emails containing a Cyber Monday or Black Friday offer, especially if they are from a site you haven’t visited.

Update your shopping apps regularly.

Popular online shopping sites have apps designed to provide a seamless purchasing experience to their regular customers. Some even remember your login information and save your credit card details so you won't have to enter them every time you make a transaction.

However, as easy as this is, you may want to exercise extra caution before downloading a shopping app to your device. First, you should only download the app from legitimate sources such as Google Play or the Apple Store. Also, pay close attention to the permissions requests from the app and decline those that don't make sense.

Most apps require constant updates to fix bugs and add new features. This should also apply to your shopping apps so scammers can't take advantage of any defects or weaknesses in the program. You should update regularly, especially whenever you see an app notification alerting you to new features.

Learn more about your shopping rights.

Consumer rights. The stamp and an imprint.(shutterstock / Waldemarus)

Most popular shopping sites like Amazon and eBay provide buyer protection to their customers as a way of keeping them safe online. In most cases, you’ll see information alerting you never to disclose personal information and not pay through the website's platform in addition to posting clear guidelines on reporting a scam.

As a buyer, you must take this information seriously and learn more about your rights. For example, you have the right to file a dispute with the payment platform you used to make the transaction if you get scammed.

Bottom line

Shopping online doesn't have to be a risky experience. It has to provide the desired convenience while keeping your information safe from scammers. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to ensure your crucial information doesn't end up in the wrong hands.

Following the above-shared tips should help keep you safe throughout your online shopping.

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Kerry is a digital marketing professional that focuses on data driven stories. She loves sharing tips, tricks and ideas about marketing and saving money.

Austin, TX

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