How to Stay Safe While Shopping Online at Christmas

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More people than ever shop online for some or even all of their Christmas gift shopping.  Whether from a desktop, a tablet or a mobile, we all use websites to track down the presents we need and have them delivered to our homes.  But there are risks to shopping online, especially if you are unaware of them.  So here are some tip expert tips to stay safe while shopping online at Christmas and any other time of the year.

What risks?

People often think that the risks from online shopping are something that happen to other people – you hear stories on the news, but it doesn’t happen that much.  While there are some excellent facilities out there to help protect against online fraud such as PayPal, there are still risks.  These include:

  • Fraud from making payment over unsecured websites
  • Fraud from using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection
  • Bogus online shops, fake websites or email offers for things that don’t exist
  • Fake goods bought intentionally or unintentionally, often used to fund illegal activities
  • Receiving goods or services that don’t match the descriptions

Financial fraud across payment cards, remote banking and cheques amounted to over £760 million in 2016, an increase of 2% on the previous period.  However, prevented fraud totalled another £1.38 billion in the same period, showing that using the right approaches have saved people a lot more money than those who were caught out.

How to avoid the worst of the risks

So, what can you do when you are online, doing your Christmas shopping, to make sure you end up on the prevented side of the equation, rather than the side of those who suffer losses?

  1. Use familiar websites

There is a reason that the biggest websites tend to get the most traffic – because we can trust them, and they are well known.  That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t shop with smaller, independent websites.  Just make sure that you are sure the site is a credible one, that it offers a secure checkout process or a payment processing software such as PayPal.

Also look for tell-tale signs that a website might not be genuine.  These include using some strange web domain – not the usual .com or .co.uk that most big sites use.  Spelling mistakes are another funny tip that are common on fraudulent sites because there aren’t the quality checks involved as with big sites.

  1. Look for the padlock

How do you tell if a checkout process is a secure one?  One of the easiest ways is to look for a padlock symbol when you are on the checkout page – this means it has security in place to protect your information.  You can also tell if a website has an SSL encryption on it because the address will start with HTTPS:// rather than the standard HTTP://.  Never give anyone information about your card or bank details over email or a chat facility. For example,  you can see the padlock on this online golf retailer, Golf Poser.

  1. Be cautious with your information

If you are making a simple transaction, there’s some information that the vendor needs and the rest that they don’t.  For example, they will need your name and address, usually an email address to send the order confirmation and updates to.  They don’t need your birthdate or how long you have lived at your home address – these can be signs of a scam that are collecting your personal data for fraudulent reasons.

  1. Watch your bank statements

Often fraud can go unnoticed because the transactions are only small amounts, but they add up over time.  So, keep an eye on your bank statement, credit card statement or your PayPal account.  And if you think there is something odd or you can’t remember a transaction, ring your bank or use the PayPal payment phone number to have someone check the transaction.  Often, the bank or payment processor might already contact you if the transaction seems out of place or from a strange location.

  1. Make sure you are secure

Some of the top ways that hackers get information is by waiting for people to use networks that aren’t secure and stealing it straight from your device.  For example, when you meet friends at a café and they mention this new toy they bought for their kids, check it out but don’t purchase it straight away.  These places use public networks and your information isn’t secure the way that it is at home.

  1. Use good security measures

All devices should have some kind of anti-virus and anti-phishing protection on it, especially desktop computers that you use for your online shopping.  There are lots of different programs with companies like McAfee and Norton being well-known.  These protect against a wide range of threats including having your personal data stolen.

  1. Use strong passwords

The other point of weakness can be the password on an account.  Try to use a password generator that will create random passwords hackers cannot guess – don’t use your kid’s names or your house number or birthdate as this information can be found out by data mining online.  And hackers will do this!  Software like LastPass can not only generate a secure password for you but store them do you don’t need to write them down anywhere.

  1. Never click links in emails asking for information

We all sign up for newsletters to get the latest deals and special offers but always be a little wary of emails with links offering things.  A link taking you to a new product is fine but one that asks you to enter your Facebook login information first isn’t – these are usually phishing scams.  Legitimate companies won’t ask for any information until you are in the checkout area of the site.

Staying safe

Sometimes even the most cautious person or an expert can be caught out or suffer from a fraudulent transaction.  But by using these tips to help protect yourself and your data, you greatly reduce the risk of being another negative statistic in the post-Christmas round up who has lost money and suffered stress while doing their Christmas shopping.

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