Internet Safety Guide—Online Shopping Safety

Cara Fuller

First came the Internet. Then came Internet shopping. Once we all adapted to living our lives on the World Wide Web, online retailers like Amazon and Overstock emerged to fulfil our demands for instant gratification. Now, you can order anything you can think of and even have it delivered the same day.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Online shopping may have changed the way we purchase, but the risk of fraud and identity theft is greater than ever.

And that’s why it’s important to observe safe online shopping practices.

Make a Smart Choice

Though it may sound obvious, only purchase goods and services from a secure site. The easiest way to tell if a website is secure is by looking at the address. Websites that begin with https use data encryption to protect information. In the browser, you should see a lock icon followed by the word “Secure” indicating the site you are visiting is secure (the S in https stands for Secure). If you don’t see a lock icon the site is not secure and you should think twice about what information you enter.

Do Your Homework

Thanks to the availability of products online, researching and shopping for the best deals is easier than ever. But just because more options have become available doesn’t mean the risk for “too-good-to-be-true” offers has gone away. If anything, the Internet has increased the opportunity for scammers.

You’d be wary of a shady looking storefront with a neglected façade and lack of customers, and the same scepticism should be applied to online retailers. In fact, if you suspect an offer or price point isn’t real, do a quick google search. Many watchdog sites keep a list of ongoing scams to avoid, so if you suspect the price or product sounds too good to be true, take a second to do some research.

Protect Your Wallet

Using an online payment service, like PayPal, can add an extra layer of protection to your online shopping experience. In the event that a site you have purchased from turns out to be fraudulent, PayPal will usually refund your money. Making purchases directly through a company’s mobile app is another way to protect yourself.

Another good rule? Don’t rely on public Internet connections when shopping online—this simply increases your risk of identity theft. Many public Wi-Fi connections contain little to no security and make it very easy for hackers to intercept your valuable information.

Stay Alert

Once you’ve become a customer of an online retailer you may find your email inbox flooded with discount coupons and exclusive offers. While it can be tempting to take advantage of these amazing deals, pay special attention to what these emails are asking of you.

  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondences requesting information
  • Never reply to an email with personal information
  • Avoid clicking any links in suspicious emails
  • Always navigate to the website in a separate browser window.

Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements after a recent online purchase. Make sure only the charges you authorized have been posted to your account. If you notice additional or duplicate chargers from a vendor, contact them immediately. Many banks offer help recovering fraudulent charges, so if something doesn’t look right, contact your bank.

Thanks to advances in technology, our wants, needs, and desires can be purchased online from any corner of the globe. And while so many aspects of our lives have improved with the advent of Internet retailers there’s still a need to be cautious.

  • Limit the information you provide
  • Shop only on verified sites, look for trust symbols
  • Steer clear of deals too good to be true
  • Keep an eye on your statements

For more online safety tips, check out these related articles:

Internet Safety Guide—Parental Controls

Internet Safety Guide—Staying Safe on Social Media

Internet Safety Guide—Malware