How to stay safe when shopping online


More and more of us are looking online to to beat the queues in shops and find the best prices for goods and services, but as we spend more money on the internet it is important to follow a few basic tips to stay safe online.

It doesn’t matter whether you are looking to buy a new smartphone, searching listings for a new car, or buying your groceries, here are four steps to follow:

Set a strong password

We use passwords to keep our personal and financial details safe, but many people not only use the same password for a number of different services, but also use the most obvious options such as “123456” or even “password”. Even dictionary words are easy for hackers to crack, so to keep your details safe try using a passphrase – even something seemingly simple like “I love to DANCE at night between 12 and 2” will makes things very hard for hackers to crack with its length, mix of capital and lowercase letters and numbers.

Make sure the payment process is secure

Most online transactions are done through something called a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which encrypts the information as you send to the website to help prevent hackers from gaining access to it. You should never share any personal information or banking details without using SSL, but it is pretty easy to check whether a site is using it or not – just look for the padlock or key symbol in your browser’s address bar.

Don’t click on or reply to spam

We all get tens or hundreds of spam emails every day. Luckily, email systems like GMail do a pretty good job of sorting out the spam from real emails, but every now and again one slips through the net and ends up in you inbox. You can normally spot spam or “phishing” emails because whilst they may superficially look legitimate and appear to come from your bank or service provider – they are always asking for personal details, and the URLs their links point to are not the genuine. As a general rule, never reply to or click on links in emails asking for personal details – it’s always better to independently browse to that company’s website by typing in its URL into your browser, logging in, and then seeing if they ask you for anything once your are browsing in a secure environment.

Buy using your credit card or Paypal rather than your debit/bank card

Even if you take all precautions you can sometimes find yourself having been scammed, and this is when you value the protections offered by Paypal and credit card companies. Paypal has its own dispute policies which should help you get your money back, but with a credit card it is actually the credit card company and not you that has been scammed – and they have a lot more clout when getting money back from unscrupulous retailers.

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