Online shopping is so much fun! Being one of the most dedicated online shoppers, you decide to purchase a thing, you visit a website, find the product, click on the “Buy” button, pay the amount, and in a few days, your package is delivered at your doorstep. But this is not as smooth as it seems to be. Owing to the online shopping scams and financial frauds, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, back in 2019 received an average of 1300 online theft complaints occurring each day where the businesses and individuals incurred a total loss of $3.5 billion.
The FBI recently received some additional complaints where the consumers complained of not receiving the goods they had purchased online. Many consumers fall for those deals that are alluring and are frequently advertised on the search engine shopping pages or social media websites. Most of the time, you either receive a faulty product or any other random product for which you never paid for or nothing at all. If the products are international, they may ask you for high international shipping charges.
These scammers frighten the shit out of the online shoppers, and they get intimidated unwilling to spend a penny on any online shopping website ever again. Thus, we bring you some of the best cyber security tips if you are an online shopper or willing to be one.
Shop With The Esteemed Retailers
While it is very easy for the online shoppers to get lured by the ads that run on the various social media platforms and the search engine search results page (SERPs), it is better that you opt for the ones that you completely trust. Even if you feel like purchasing something from a website, preferably a new one, you must check their reviews online. When you have already found out the trustworthy websites, make sure to bookmark them as when you will be using it next time, you will not have to type the website name and then find its link to land on the website. Also, a small typo in the URL could lead you to the phishing websites or fake sites that resemble the actual. When you make a payment on the illegitimate websites, you may unknowingly hand over the scammers your personal information and credit and/or debit card numbers.
Verify The Websites Before Making A Payment
Have you spotted an excellent product from a different seller? If you did and wished to place an order from the seller, you have never availed product from earlier. Then you need to do your homework thoroughly. Check the online reviews of the people who are talking about the seller or his products. If, at any point, you feel that the reviews are not convincing enough, check their “Contact Us” page on the website. If you find a number and an address, call on that number and verify if it actually belongs to the legitimate seller. This is because the scammers in the process of convincing the online shoppers put up a real website’s contact details by hijacking their website. Still doubtful? Do not make any payment on the website.
Beware of Luring Deals
Have you recently spotted a great advertisement on any of the social media platforms that are offering products at a much cheaper rate or free stuff? You must investigate it before making up your mind on making a payment on the website that is running the luring deals. As per the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (U.S. FTC), reports of stolen money have tripled from the social media scams in the past year.
If any offer you find online looks too good to be true, probably it is. The FBI has found out that most of the online shopping scams emerged as a result of advertisements run on the various social media platforms. To avoid these shady websites and their jaw-dropping deals, you must compare the prices prior to purchasing anything from the website. With considerable differences in the prices for a particular product, it might be a red flag that you may have unwantedly landed on a fake website that has been set up to squeeze your personal information or rob your hard-earned money.
Nowadays, many online shopping sites have released their iOS and Android apps that help the online shoppers shop on the go. But you should be aware of when downloading the apps. The apps must be downloaded from a genuine source. Or you can check for the app download option against the online shopping website portal. With the help of apps, you can shop online from the comfort of your home.
Avoid Public WiFi
While public WiFi could be alluring for people who like to access the internet free of cost or to get a speed higher than their cell phone’s or laptop’s internet, it is better to avoid shopping while connected to a public WiFi. In fact, it is advisable not to conduct online shopping while in public. You never know the guy in the next table at the café might be spying on your phone while you are purchasing a product online. The ID thieves are always in the search for people who enter their name, address, credit card or debit card numbers, CVVs or PINs.
Make A Habit Of Using A VPN
Whether you are on a public network or a private one, it is always encouraged that you use a premium VPN or Virtual Private Network. A VPN is useful in creating an encrypted tunnel between the server and the computer. You do not have to worry about the cybercriminals lurking nearby as with a VPN protected network. The hackers would not be able to intercept your personal information or know what you are doing online.
Talking about the VPNs, there are free VPNs readily available online. Make sure to avoid them as they come with various limitations. Plus, many of them might be malware infested. A premium VPN tariff would cost you less than what otherwise you might end up handing over to the hackers and scammers.
Strong Passwords Are Your Best Friends
A weak, easily guessable password could lead you to potential threats. Whereas, a strong hard-to-guess password acts like a secure lock that keeps the cyber thieves at a distance. How to pick a strong password for your accounts? Well, the best practice is to use a complex set of characters and numbers with symbols. You may also use a long passphrase that you can easily remember and give others a hard time guessing it. You must keep away from the dictionary words or personal information that one could easily assume, even if it is someone from your family or friends. You must never reuse old passwords that you may have had once in any of your accounts. Also, you should set different passwords for different accounts and websites. If you still do after knowing this, then a data breach at an online site could lead to passwords of other accounts as well in the hands of the fraudsters.
Protect Your Computer
The swindlers do not wait for you to offer them your data. At times, they offer a tad bit extra for helping things along. You must protect yourself against malware having the regular updates to your antivirus program. It is better if you pay for a full-blown security package. This package will ensure you have antivirus software and fight spam, phishing attacks from websites and spear-phishing emails. But this being said, it is not enough to have the suite installed. You need to make sure that your anti-malware tools are regularly updated. Or else, they may help penetrate new threats. Honestly, there are no limitations to the latest threats. Use encryption wherever possible.
Check For A Website’s Security
When accessing a website, do not rush. Check for the security of the website. Look for a lock pad (on hovering says “Visit Site Information”) in the website’s browser bar. If you find that, be sure they are using SSL or Secure Sockets Layer encryption. Also, check the URL of the website if it has “HTTPS” and not “HTTP”. The secured websites are configured for masking the data you share, like the financial information or the passwords. Shopping online solely on the secure websites ensures that the risk of your private information getting compromised is reduced.
Do Not Fall Prey To Email Scams
Often, you get texts or emails offering whopping deals and incredible bargains or even claiming that there has been an issue with package delivery. If you find anything suspicious arriving in your inbox, make sure you delete them immediately and remove them from the trash as well. You must never open any attachments or click any links in the messages as they could infect your phone or computer further with malware and viruses.
Shield Your Personal Information
A general concept states that no online shopping website would ever ask you to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). If any of the shopping websites ever does that, you should run in the other direction. You must choose what information to provide to the sellers anonymously. Provide as little information possible to complete a purchase with a reputable seller.
Choose Credit Cards Over The Debit Cards
It is best if you use credit cards to make a transaction over the debit cards. The reason is that credit cards do not provide direct access to the seller to the money that is stored in your bank account. And the second thing is that most of the credit cards offer zero dollars liability for fraud. This implies that you are never out of your money even if anyone uses your account information to carry out a purchase. This is because your credit card company always asks questions. If they identify fraudulent activity, they will send you a new card.
Phone Transactions Are Helpful
Online shoppers these days have made phone transactions pretty standard. This method is further more secure than using a debit or a credit card. Utilizing the mobile payment applications like the Apple Pay or any other payment app in your country that generates a one-time-use authentication code or OTP for the particular purchase which no one else other than you will be able to hack or use. Additionally, you are keeping the card skimmers at bay. You will not need to carry your credit or debit cards physically with you. But you need to go to a store that accepts mobile payments. Alternatively, you can also use Google Pay. The best part is you would require face unlock or fingerprint or passcode to make payments instantly. Another thing is to use gift cards.
Enhance Your Security With A Virtual Credit Card
A virtual credit card ensures extra security while the online shoppers shop online. Few credit card issuers provide you with a temporary card number directly linked to your credit card account. You can utilize the temporary credit card number to shop online without letting the seller know your original credit card details. If any online scammer acquires your virtual credit card number and attempts to use it later, they will never succeed.
Closely Watch For A Fraud
Make a consistent habit of checking your credit card and bank statements each week. This will let you spot any fraudulent charges. You may also set up account alerts that will notify you if there is any new activity on your card. As you receive a new email or text notification, you can check back your account and make sure you recognize the charge.
Safely Store The Details
After you have made the purchase, you must keep the details in a place that is safest according to you. Check the receipt that the seller had sent you and look carefully at the order confirmation number along with the tracking number it has provided. If you find anything wrong with the order, the information mentioned earlier will help you get your problem resolved.
Track Your Package
After you receive your tracking details, make sure to track them frequently to know if it is moving. Suppose you face issues like the merchant refusing to provide shipping information or not responding to your order status requests. In that case, you will have to contact your credit card issuer for assistance. There are chances that they will remove the charges cleared from your bill and keenly look into the matter.
Have you been scammed? If yes, you have to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI. If you suspect any ID theft, take help from the identity theft recovery plan from FTC.
These are the most crucial cybersecurity tips that you must follow religiously in order to stay protected as online shoppers. This does not mean that you will not encounter any hackers, but you would definitely keep them away.
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