10 Tips To Stay Safe When Shopping Online

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Who doesn't love shopping online? You get a ton of choices, the best prices and your products shipped straight to your door. But like anything that happens via an internet connection, there's always some level of security risk with online shopping.

Thankfully, you can take some simple steps to shop safely online. We've outlined 10 of our top internet security tips below.

1. Stick to the big retailers

One of the biggest cyber threats when it comes to online shopping is the abundance of insecure stores. Unfortunately, many retailers still don't take their website security as seriously as they should. Not only does this put them at risk, but it could compromise their customers' personal or financial data.

If you're worried about running into websites that don't have good security protocols, then the easiest thing you can do is stick to well-known, trusted retailers.

Popular websites that are known for their online trade will often make significant investments in their safety systems. This is because maintaining a reputation for security is essential to retain customers and boost sales.

2. Check the site has SSL

Of course, you might not want to shop at the largest retailers all the time. Perhaps they don't have the products you're looking for, or maybe you'd just prefer to support a smaller business. Regardless of your reasoning, being careful with your security is even more important when you stray from the beaten track.

You need to check whether or not the online shop has an SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption certificate. You can confirm this by looking for the small padlock sign next to the address bar. If the padlock isn't there, then you should probably stay away from the website.

3. Use strong passwords

We've all heard this one before, yet we still use simple passwords that hackers can easily guess. Although it's much easier to have a single password that you use everywhere, this is a big no-no for internet security.

Ideally, you should be using a different strong password for all your online accounts. Strong passwords are typically "random" strings of letters, numbers and symbols. Some companies, such as Apple, have technology in their devices that stores all your passwords for easy usage.

4. Install an antivirus programme

Installing reliable antivirus software is always a great idea for whatever device you use for your virtual shopping. A good antivirus detects the presence of harmful malware and stops it before it can cause any serious damage.

Investing in a full security suite could be your best bet if you want an all-in-one solution. Not only will this offer antivirus protection, but it will also fight against phishing attacks and website spam.

5. Never overshare

A trustworthy online store will only ever ask you for the information they need and nothing more. If you feel that you're sharing unnecessary details about your purchase, then you should probably trust your instincts.

A well-disguised phishing link could have you entering your bank details without realising it. If an online store requests things such as your mother's maiden name or other potential security questions. If you give away too much to the wrong person, you're opening yourself up to dangerous situations, such as identity theft.

6. Check your bank statements

Regularly checking in with your bank account will mean you can catch any suspicious charges as quickly as possible. Banks are much more likely to help you get your money back if you can raise the issue with them soon after it happens.

When checking your statements, remember that a scammer won't necessarily have taken cash directly out of your account. They could have used your card to pay for something at a trustworthy site like Amazon.

7. Refrain from online shopping in public

Public wi-fi hotspots are prime targets for hackers, thanks to their lowered security measures. We highly recommend trying not to shop online when connected to open networks. Entering bank data in a public space increases the risk of someone watching over your shoulder.

8. Use a VPN

If you must use public wi-fi to buy online, then the best thing you can do to stay safe is to install a VPN. A VPN essentially creates a private tunnel for your data to pass through the network safely. When your VPN is turned on, no one else on the network will be able to catch a glimpse of your info.

There are plenty of VPN providers operating in the market today, so make sure to shop around to find the best one for you.

9. Don't be afraid to go mobile

Naturally, you might think that a mobile is less secure than a laptop when it comes to online shopping. This isn't usually the case though, and mobile shopping can often be the safest way to operate.

Many of the big retailers have their own apps that are more secure than their websites. Apple iOS and Android security measures are also pretty advanced, with additional protection available for those who want to pay for a third-party security app.

Put simply, there's no reason to use a computer over a mobile device if security is your biggest concern.

10. Always check seller reviews

If you use a shopping site such as eBay, which features third-party sellers, checking online reviews before buying is essential. Anyone can make an account on these websites, and there's not much stopping them from setting up fake product pages.

The review system is a great way around this problem. Try to only buy from sellers who have a good amount of positive reviews. Doing this gives you the best chance of avoiding nasty sellers and securing your products in the proper condition.


Why is internet security important when online shopping?

Online shopping inherently involves handing over your personal details to someone else. For this reason alone, internet security is critical to protect yourself from scams and thefts.

It's easy to get complacent when you're shopping online. After all, the popularity of websites such as Amazon has made "one-click" ordering, and quick purchase processes the norm. But if you give your click to the wrong person, you can quickly find yourself in some trouble.

This might sound rather bleak, but the good thing is that keeping yourself protected online can be super easy. You'll be keeping yourself and your money as safe as possible by following a few simple security steps (such as the ones featured above!).

How do I know if an online shop is safe to use?

There are a few giveaways that let you know an online retailer has a trusted site. The biggest one is the SSL "padlock symbol" displayed in the website address bar. If you see the padlock, then that's a positive first sign.

If you're in any way concerned about the legitimacy of a website, then there's no harm in Googling the address and searching for some reviews. If there aren't any reviews, or if the reviews are bad, you should probably avoid the retailer.

Is it safer to use Apple Pay or my debit card online?

Apple Pay is accepted at practically all physical locations in the UK and is seen as a convenient way to shop. However, you might not know that you can actually use Apple Pay to buy things online too.

This has a couple of security benefits. Firstly, if you're browsing in a public space, you don't have to get your debit card out to copy the payment details. More importantly, Apple Pay doesn't share your card details directly with the retailer. This means the chance of losing money from a scam is significantly reduced.

Which online retailers are the safest to shop at?

In general, the largest and most popular retailers will be the ones with advanced security systems. This isn't always the case, though, as proven by high-profile data leaks in recent years. Rather than putting all your trust behind individual retailers, the best thing you can do is take your security into your own hands.

Another thing to be aware of when it comes to popular websites is phishing. This is where scammers produce fake links or web pages that look similar to the real thing in order to collect personal details. Using links from reliable sources and checking things like the SSL certificate should help you avoid these scams.