Did you know that there were 15.4 million cases of identity theft reported in America in 2016 according to Javelin Strategy & Research? This led to a loss of $16 billion for online consumers. The truth is with the advancement of the internet and technology, online shopping has become a staple for many shoppers. Equally, this has enticed a large number of online fraudsters to reap where they haven't sowed. With the convenience that comes along with it, most Americans prefer to shop online than do physical shopping. In the process, they easily fall prey to fraud and online theft. However, to avoid this misfortune, these simple strategies can be employed to ensure you have a smooth, safe, secure online shopping experience.
- Use Private Networks
Private networks will not allow your information to be accessed by somebody else other than those using the network. As such, your credit card information, bank information, or any other personal information will not be disclosed to fraudsters thereby protecting you from the hazard of fraud. Using your data bundle plan on your phone instead of public Wi-Fi will help guard you against such risks. Also, having a VPN, (Virtual Private Network) on your home internet connection can be an added advantage and an extra layer of protection. Also, avoid making online purchases using public gadgets such as cyber cafes or friend's phone. Your information could fall into the wrong hands. Instead, shop at home with your PC or use your mobile phone.
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- Shop on Secure Websites
One of the best ways to avoid online theft is to only shop in websites that are reputable in online shopping and have a good history. Websites with funny names or with no reputation at all are a no-go zone. Check on the address bar to see if the website is secured. Mostly, secured websites will use https while unsecured ones have http as their protocol. Internet browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla will warn you when a website is not secure by displaying a red open padlock icon on the address bar. Watch out for such. An unsecured website means that fraudsters can easily access your credit and bank information and use it to steal money. Also, don’t give out your personal information via email. Check to see if the website has given its own information such as contact and location and that they have detailed the service they're offering. Check for grammar and misspelling and ensure you read terms and conditions when making purchases. When the deal is too good, think twice.
- Use Complex Passwords
When it comes to online shopping, your password is your first line of defense from being defrauded. Avoid using simple passwords such as your name or social security number or an easy-to-guess word. Make your password as complex as possible such that only you can crack it. This comes in handy especially when using public gadgets or networks to do your online shopping. Also, in case your phone is stolen, the thief cannot easily guess your password and steal from you.
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- Install Anti-virus
This is an important but overlooked factor when it comes to secure online shopping. An anti-virus will guard you against any malware or computer virus deployed by fraudsters that can easily read your information and make it easy for your funds to be stolen. Ensure your computer has an up-to-date anti-virus and all its softwares are up to date with the latest versions. The same goes for the phone. Ensure its operating system is up-to-date and don’t click on malicious web links or download malicious apps. Simply put, watch out for the peculiar.
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- Use Secure Payment Services
There are a myriad of payment options available out there for online shopping. However, not all are good for online shopping. For instance, avoid buying gift cards from people selling them in auctioning ecommerce websites such as eBay or OLX. PayPal on the other hand has a money-back guarantee in case you get defrauded. Same with credit cards. In fact, choose to shop with credit cards over debit cards as credit cards provide more security in case of online theft than debit cards. Avoid giving out your card information via email. You could also add extra security verification on your card by receiving a one-time pin sent to your mobile phone every time you make an online purchase.
Online shopping is risky and perilous but with a lot of advantages over physical shopping. It saves time, gives you convenience and flexibility, and makes shopping fun. To avoid falling prey to the risks associated with online shopping such as theft and fraud, ensure you shop only on secure websites, use private networks and have complex passwords, install anti-viruses, and use secure payment services. With that, your online shopping will be a hustle-free, smooth experience.