Follow these tips for safer online shopping

online shopping

Love online shopping? You’re not alone.

The National Retail Federation says online retail grew 8%-12% in 2017, up to three times higher than the growth rate of total retail sales.

Clearly, many enjoy the benefits of online shopping. You don’t have to fight traffic to drive to the mall and circle the parking lot. Online stores are open 24/7, and you can wear your pajamas. It’s easy to compare prices between multiple retailers and read both customer and professional reviews of products before you buy.

But to shop online safely, and protect your personal identity from malicious types, follow these online shopping safety tips.

Look for the padlock
Always use a secure Internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. Look for the little padlock in the address bar or a URL that starts with “https” instead of “http,” as the “s” stands for “secure.” Some browsers will tell you it’s safe to give out your credit card by showing you a green address bar, while unprotected ones will be highlighted in red.

Use a secure payment method
Only shop on sites that take secure payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal, as they likely give you buyer protection just in case there’s a dispute.

In other words, you won’t be held liable for fraudulent charges. Even before it gets to that, you might be notified by your credit card company or bank if suspicious activity is detected.

It’s always a good idea to review your account transactions online or go through monthly paper statements to see if anything looks questionable.

Password pointers
A strong password is at least seven characters long, has a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and with some uppercase characters, too. Change passwords routinely. Or use a password management app if you’re worried you won’t remember the password.

It’s good to reset your shopping passwords every so often, just in case someone guesses them, or if there’s a data breach at an online retailer. And never use the same password for all online shopping sites (or other web activities, like online banking), as once someone guesses one password, they’ll have free reign over everything else.

Do your homework
When on marketplaces like eBay, check the seller’s reputation and read comments before buying a product to see what the experience was like for past customers. You can always ask a question of a seller and reputable ones will reply in a timely manner. Also, read the item description carefully before you buy, including where the seller is located, shipping charges, if the product is new or used, refund and return policies, and payment methods accepted.

Watch out for fake shopping apps
Hundreds of phony retail apps popped up last year in Apple’s App Store and Google Play (for Android devices), in the hopes of tricking shoppers into downloading and using them.

These counterfeit apps — complete with an authentic-looking logo and marketing messaging — want your credit card information to steal your identity. Some have been found to contain malware that can also infect a mobile device, while others ask you to log in with Facebook credentials to lift personal data.

Be sure you’re downloading the legitimate app by getting it from the company’s official website or if downloading from an app store directly.

Source: USA Today