If you’re buying anything online you need to make sure that you are taking all the most sensible security precautions to avoid becoming the victim of online crime. Luckily we’re here to lend a helping hand with a quick guide to how to safely make purchases online. Shopping online is a great way to save money but doing so safely is essential.

Initially you need to make sure your home system itself is safe as this is entirely in your own control. Firstly you need to check that you have home security set up and installed and operating correctly. If you don’t then we would highly recommend buying some as your first purchase to ensure at your computer is protected. If you have security software, check that it is operating and update it frequently. Also be sure to regularly run virus scans of your files as these can often contain spyware that might be passing information you enter online to third parties. Secondly you need to check that your firewall is active and blocking ay unwanted interference with your computer. This can be done simply by looking at your control panel. Finally check that your browser is up to date. If you are running an older version of a browser then you are exposing yourself to security risks  new browser updates contain the very latest security designed to protect your information.

Next you need to check site security itself. Firstly you need to check that company information is displayed including contact details and a concrete business address. This will help you ensure the company is legitimate that you are shopping through. Secondly you need to make sure that the company has clear term and conditions which should detail your consumer rights, returns polices and other essential knowledge you make before a purchase. Thirdly you should carefully read the privacy policy of the site to ensure that your private information is protected and not shared with third parties. If any of these things are missing you should be very cautious about giving any personal details and seek alternate means of payment should you wish to continue. Generally, however, we would simply recommend shopping elsewhere. Finally you need to check that the site uses secure payment methods and encrypts your data whilst you are making a purchase. Don’t be drawn in by on page guarantees of security but instead look for the letters https at the start of the address bar and also the pad lock symbol. These signs show that your personal data is encrypted before being sent across cyberspace so it is much less likely to be intercepted. If these symbols are missing shop elsewhere or use instant pay services like PayPal which don’t require you to share your details.

This brings us onto our final safety precaution which is using secure payment methods. A large number of payment methods cannot be considered as secure and should be used rarely if at all. For example bank transfers such as those offered by Western Union are widely recognised as being insecure. Generally if a site asks for payment that is not credit card, debit card or PayPal you should avoid using it. The safest payment methods are credit cards and PayPal. Credit cards are good because of the high levels of insurance and protection available. Whilst the security isn’t the best available you will always have recourse to reclaim your money. If you use pre-paid credit cards you are even better protected as you get the additional benefits of no-one being able to overspend on your card. Whilst you do have to pay for these cards there is no interest and the added peace of mind makes it entirely worthwhile. Finally PayPal, though not always an option, is one of the most secure forms of payment as your financial details are never shared with the retailer meaning you are not exposed to having your financial information stolen.

Steve writes about shopping on the internet, in addition to using portals such as ShopAndEarn where you can earn rewards for items purchased online.

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