Reassura Guide: Shopping Confidently and Safely Online

Having the freedom to shop online is liberating. Never, before has there been so much opportunity for individuals to buy, sell and receive goods from across the globe. Of course, online shopping can be advantageous too. Frequently we can make real cost savings, compared to when buying in-store, however greater freedom and the numerous benefits associated with online shopping necessitate new levels of personal responsibility and caution. Reassura’s short and simple guide is designed to help you enjoy everything that online shopping has to offer and to do so both safely and confidently.

Anti-Virus Software

Ensuring that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software in place is essential when considering shopping online. Anti-Virus software acts as a barrier, to prevent un-wanted malware infecting your computer.  A comprehensive internet security software solution will also work to stop hackers and fraudsters from gaining access to your wifi network, passwords, data and other personal information.

Research

Research retailers / companies online to make sure they’re legitimate before shopping. Is the name of the company spelt correctly? Many fraudsters create copycat/false websites. If there are grammatical errors and poor spelling on the website – this is a “red flag”.  Search for the retailer on Google or Bing.  The company should appear high in the rankings and the web address should look as expected.  Search for the company name, followed by the word review too.  There should be a good number of trusted reviews and positive comments from the likes of Trust Pilot?

Email

If you have received an email either out of the blue or from a well know company of which you may be a customer, do not assume that it is genuine.  There’s a possibility that it could be a “phishing” email.  These are fraudulent emails that looks like they have been sent from the genuine company but is instead are fake and designed to lure the recipient into clicking through to a copycat website which will potentially install malware or viruses on your computer or ask for personal information or payment in return for non-existent or fake products and services.  Some of the most common phishing emails (and increasingly messages and WhatApp notifications) are purportedly being sent from the likes of HMRC and Apple, mobile phone operators, high street banks and supermarket chains.  Never click on a link sent you you in an email, never open any attachments (unless you are 100% certain about who the sender is) and always check the sender’s email address to make sure it looks right and is not someone masquerading as someone else.

Website Security

Regardless of whether you are shopping leisurely for pleasure or as a matter of convenience, always exercise caution, and make sure that the website both genuine and secure:

  • Is there a padlock at the beginning of the browser address?
  • Does the web address begin with https:// (“S” stands for secure)
  • Use a Credit card for payment or well-known online payment services such as PayPal

Having the above in place creates an encrypted website, which makes it difficult for hackers to penetrate the website and steal your personal details. Payment companies such as Paypal offer buyer protection and credit card companies will often credit back any payments made to fraudsters, so long as you can prove that you took due care in the first place.

Passwords

Creating strong passwords is imperative when shopping online. Avoid using birthdays, anniversary dates, or any obvious self-identifiers. Create passwords with a combination of symbols, letters and numbers. It can be a real hassle using different passwords for different applications such as personal banking, email and online subscriptions but its worth it.  If a hacker does become aware of your password they will only have limited access to anything you may value.  Remember that although you may take care over your personal security, there are numerous large-scale attacks on some of the biggest names on the high street and in many cases they have successfully managed to steel and use/resell valuable personal information.

Some sites will automatically save your credit card details to make it easier for you to make purchases in the future. Wherever possible, we advise that it is much safer (although tedious) to enter your credit card details each and every time you buy something.

Wi-Fi Security

Using Public Wi-Fi while out and about gives one the ability to surf the web, send and receive email, stream movies and use social media when away from home. We advise against using public Wi-Fi for online shopping or any activity requiring you to share personal information, credit card information or details about your bank account. Fraudsters lay-in waiting, for the opportune moment to grab an unsuspecting person’s information. Public Wi-Fi does not have the security features in place that your own personal Wi-Fi setup has. Although we all hope not be targeted by criminals, it can be horrifyingly easy for hackers to gain access to our mobiles, tablets and laptops while we are on the move.

Returns /Cancellation Policy

Assuming the retailer is genuine in the first place, In the UK, online consumers have the right to cancel their order for a limited time even if the goods are not faulty. This is known as “distance selling”. As a customer you have the right to a full refund, if for whatever reason you return the product within 14 days of purchase. It is important to note, companies outside of the UK create their own returns policies, so as a customer be aware of individual returns policies before you purchase any product.

Proof or Purchase

Retain all proof of purchase items such as: bank statements, invoices, sales receipts, delivery notes, labels and packaging.

This article has covered Reassura’s golden rules of how to shop safely online offer a good stating point towards shopping confidently and safely online.

Reassura is dedicated to helping raise awareness of scams and fraud and the impact they have on their victims.  Reassura’s team of specialist anti-fraud advisors are on-hand to offer advice designed to help individuals make better informed decisions and avoid the unpleasant consequences of becoming a victim. For further information visit: https://reassura.com or call 0800 888 6400