Is it Safer to Shop Online or In-Store?

Those who haven’t entered a mall since 2010 and others who’re still wary to enter their credit card information anywhere. Likewise, there are some items we typically only buy in-store, like cars, and others that are almost exclusively digital, like music. These are the extremes, though. Most of us buy a wide variety of items both online and in-store, never completely picking one side. They both have their pros and cons, but the list is getting a little more complicated after some particularly severe data breaches.

While it might seem like these are a definite con in the online shopping column, the truth is that many of these data breaches happened to customers who purchased items in-store. Their card information was stored upon swiping, and that’s the information that hackers were able to get ahold of. However, we’ve attempted to up the security surrounding credit cards, but knowing where to shop safe is still surprisingly complicated.

Can You Ever Be Safe Shopping Online?

While digital security is always evolving, so are hacker techniques. This makes shopping online always at least somewhat risky. There are some basic tips that you absolutely should follow: evaluate the trustworthiness of the website and use a credit card or PayPal when possible. You’ll have better luck disputing charges on a credit card or through PayPal than you would another method of payment.

It’s important to realize that it’s oftentimes not the site itself that is out to steal your information, but a third party. Businesses go to great lengths to secure their site, so if it’s the site of a company that you’re familiar with, you’re probably safe. At the same time, digital security is becoming more complicated as time goes on. A lot of us shop on our phones now, which opens us up to a host of new hackers. It’s definitely more convenient when you’re on the go, but don’t connect to just any network to do your shopping. Your financial information is best entered over a secure network, not on your phone connected to some airport Wi-Fi.

Taking necessary precautions can go a long way towards securing your online shopping experience, but it’ll never be a guarantee. It’s always better to go with sites that you trust, but shopping online is always a risk.

What About In-Store?

You might think that shopping in-store is safer than shopping online, but the digital revolution has changed everything! We might have switched over to chip cards, but those aren’t impervious to security threats either. While you can safely assume that the store itself isn’t a hoax (that’d be pretty elaborate), the only way to avoid any digital security threats in-store is to pay in cash, which may or may not be practical.

People are usually surprised how difficult it is to get away from the web. Tracking customers while they’re in-store will be mainstream in a few years. Just because you are doing your shopping physically inside the store, that doesn’t mean that your information is entirely within your control. The difference is that people nowadays are usually have their guard up when shopping online. Nothing seems menacing about your local department store.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof method of protection against someone hacking into that department store’s computer. Your bank or the store will cover the charges, but it will definitely be a big headache. But as far as in-store shopping goes, the only way that you can take control of the situation is not to use your card at all, which seems like an extreme measure. Major data breaches at retailers aren’t common enough to make the switch to cash-only purchases.

Wait, So Where Do I Shop?

This ultimately depends on your area and your awareness of common online credit scams. If you are confident in your ability to prevent any online mishaps, online shopping is certainly more convenient. However, if you can’t tell one end of a router from the other, it might be a better idea to head to the nearest supermarket. Obviously, you should keep up to date with any local news to see if any of the stores in your area have been affected, and be wary of any place that’s been hit multiple times.

There’s plenty of factors that help us decide where and how to shop, but security should be at the top of the list. Even if you are able to get your money back, it can be a huge hassle to rectify the situation, and it’s just not worth it. Spend the extra time to really evaluate a website, use cash a little more, and realize that your chip card is not invulnerable. No matter how advanced technology gets, we’ll always have to be careful.

Is it Safer to Shop Online or In-Store?