Online shopping is very convenient, but it can also be insecure and un-safe. Here are a few tips for safer online shopping:

Use a secure connection

If your computer isn’t guarded from malicious software, your financial info and passwords can be stolen.

Only a fraction of the North American population protects their computers.

Make sure your computer’s firewall is on. If you use a wireless network, make sure that it’s encrypted so that someone who is prowling outside the house can’t steal your information. Don’t make any financial transactions when using a public network, as you don’t know how it may be compromised.

It is good to know the merchant, or their reputation

  • If you’re already familiar with the store, then it’s a pretty safe bet that it can be trusted.
  • If you know others who have had frequent positive experiences with the online store, then that is a good telltale sign of its credibility.
  • If you don’t know the store, it may still be okay, you just need to take a few more precautions. Read up on some e-store reviews online. If the store isn’t reviewed or does not have favorable reviews, don’t use it.

Avoid ’too good to be true offers

Any e-store that promises too much at a very low price should raise suspicions. If the price is too low, consider whether the merchant came by the items legally, if the items are actually the brand shown (or just a cheap knock-off), if you will be able to return damaged goods, or if the merchant is selling your financial information to 3rd party companies.

Some online stores may run an absurdly low price offer and then claim that the item is out of stock. They may then try to sell you something else in a classic “bait and switch” scam.

Beware of e-stores that require more information than necessary to make the sale

You will need to provide some method of payment, shipping address, telephone number, and email address, but if the merchant is asking for other information, you should probably just leave the site. Do not provide them things like your bank account information, social security information, or driver’s license number.

Does the merchant resell, rent, or share your information? Check the site’s privacy policy to see how exposed your information may become. Many stores state that they do not share, sell or rent consumer’s information – others say they own your info and can use it (or abuse it) however they choose. Use the companies that respect your privacy.

Use a unique password (if required for the site)

You may be asked to create an account with a password when you make a purchase. Typically you can choose not to do this, and unless you will use the e-store often, don’t create an account. If you do want an account, make sure to use a unique and strong password.

Is the site secure?

Prior to entering any personal or credit card info on an e-commerce shop, look to see if the web address on the page begins with “https”, instead of “http”. That little “s” tells you that your entries (address, credit card info etc.) are being encrypted to protect your sensitive information.

Also, most secure sites will have a “lock” image beside the website address. This means they are using SSL (secure socket layer) to encrypt your data. You can click on the “lock” image and view the SSL certificate details.

Use a credit Card – or a well known payment service like PayPal

Refrain from using a debit card, or a cheque, as these do not have the same security implemented for you should a problem arise.

Most credit card companies limit your liability to no more than $50 of unauthorized charges if your financial information is stolen. Most debit cards do not offer this protection, and even when they do, you’re the one out of funds until it all gets sorted out.

Consider using one credit card for online shopping and transactions only. This way, if the card gets compromised, you can quickly shut it down without affecting any other type of transactions.