Today, more and more of our everyday shopping is online rather than shopping in the store. With the increasing accessibility of marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, any consumer (with access to the Internet) can find almost anything online that would be in a store. In the last decade alone, online shopping has exploded and revolutionized the way people live their lives and shop for their essentials. Perishables, stationary, technology — you name it — it can be found online and bought at the touch of a button.
Unfortunately, with the increase of online shopping also comes and increase of cyber crimes. Predators are out there in the virtual world looking out for susceptible online shoppers unaware of the potential vulnerabilities of shopping online.
If you’re not already familiar with the term ‘cyber crime’, this term refers to the specialized crimes that involve individuals or even companies that steal information from consumer online. By stealing information, these people can use your identity and information as they or wish to steal money, property, or power. Cyber crimes are a serious issue in this day in age, and nobody wants to be the victim of a cyber crime. Thankfully, you can reduce your likeliness of becoming a cyber crime victim by practicing good online shopping etiquette. Here are our top tips:
1. Stick to What You Know
There are thousands (literally thousands!) of online shopping websites to choose from! Although some sites that you’ve never heard of before might seem enticing, these sites can have malicious software that can harm your computer and steal your identity. Browsers have a safeguard with the website security and indicate it in the URL of the website:
The green lock ‘Secure’ shows that the browser has been proven to be safe and reliable, and the information stored on the website is private. When browsing for shopping websites, you need to make sure that a secure green lock is visible, or at least the security of the website has “https”, which is safer than the “http” or no tag attached.
To play it safe, stick with shopping on popular sites that you know are trustworthy. Of course, maybe that new site actually is “amazing”, but if you don’t conduct the proper research and checks beforehand, you might scam yourself. If you’re determined to check out an unfamiliar shopping site, be sure to do some research on the website company and domain. If you search the site for reviews and phrases such as “SCAM alert” or “Buyer beware” frequently occur, it will be in your best interest to save yourself the trouble and find somewhere else to shop.
2. Don’t Provide Too Much Information
If you are using a site purely for the purpose of online shopping, you should never, I repeat, never, be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). If you are asked for your Social Security Number, Tax ID, bank number, or credit card information (without a proper, secure checkout for purchasing a product), there is a very high possibility of it being a fraud. Whenever you suspect that the website may be taking advantage of your information maliciously, immediately quit the website and find an alternative website. After all, there are millions of other sites that you can use to purchase a product.
In combination with your credit card number, this information makes it easy for crooks to steal your identity and tap into your bank account. Most sites will only require your email, phone number, or birth date. Make sure you only provide what’s necessary, and if there is anything asked that is uncalled for, question the process before proceeding.
3. Protect Your Computer
Aside from being aware of where you are shopping, you can take an extra precaution by protecting your computer from harmful viruses and malware. This way if you do happen to travel onto a site loaded with crooks, your computer won’t be easily hacked. Norton Security and McAfee are two popular virus protection softwares that guard your computer from malicious programs and also monitor your computer’s health. These softwares come as subscriptions in packs for individual or multiple computers. In addition to malware security, be sure to also have applications such a Dr. Cleaner installed on your computer to get rid of any excess files that can clutter your computer and slow down its performance.
4. Place Secure Passwords
If you’re accustomed to shopping online, you probably have many different shopping accounts, some of them might even be connected to your bank account. Obviously, you don’t want someone else to hack into your accounts, so you should make a secure password. Many users use the same password for multiple websites, which is a risky habit for keeping your accounts secure. You don’t want your password for Kohl’s to be the same as your password for your online bank account, in case your Kohl’s account is compromised.
Using simple passwords such as “password” is a great way to your account hacked. Check to see if your password is on the list of worst passwords. A secure password should have a variety of letters (both upper and lowercase), numbers, and symbols, and is recommended to be longer than 12 characters. If you’re a person who sticks with the same password, rather than having a different difficult password for each site, you can create a complex password and add the website name or initial to the tagline of your password. For example, for Kohl’s, you can have “yourpassword” + “kohls” to differentiate your Kohl’s password from your Amazon password. (“yourpasswordkohls” and “yourpasswordamazon”)
If you want to see how secure your password is, type it into How Secure Is My Password and it will tell you how long it’ll take for a computer to crack your password. The typical 8-letter password will take a couple of milliseconds, while longer passwords with numbers and symbols can take months or years. Amazingly, just by adding non-alphabetical digits, your account can be infinitely more secure.
5. If It’s Too Good to be True, It’s Probably Not True
I’m sure you’ve seen infomercials for websites like QuiBids that offer something normally pricey, such as a Macbook, for over 95% off or $5.99. To me, this sounds too good to be true — and that’s because it is too good to be true. These bidding websites rig the system so that you either have to pay around the same price to finally win the item or you might get something that appears similar to a Macbook, and I can promise you that you are not going to get a Macbook and will likely have some disappointment at what you receive.
Websites deceive customers into spending more money than they should or getting ripped off at so-called “bargains”. Never take advantage of something that seems “too good to be true” because, on the web, everyone is out there to make a profit.
Next time you are shopping online, which might be right now, be sure to play it safe so that you will be able to enjoy your purchase without worry! Stay safe, and keep shopping!