With all of my posts encouraging you to shop online and save money, I thought it would be a good time to have a refresher on online shopping security and how you can be a bit smarter and adopt some simple practices to ensure you have a pleasant online experience.
Besides using your common sense, here are some of my tips based on my online shopping experiences:
1. DON’T STORE YOUR CREDIT CARD DETAILS!
A lot of merchants will give you the option of storing your credit card details with them for future use. This way, it’s convenient for you next time you make a purchase. The only thing they can’t save is your CCV. PLEASE don’t do this. Of course this seems so much easier, especially on sites you buy from frequently but it’s just not worth the risk! Whilst merchants need to abide by certain regulations and have minimum standards in place when storing credit card information, of course it’s not foolproof and if that site gets hacked, then your credit card details are in the open market. It might take additional 5 minutes, but manually enter your cc details EVERY time you make a purchase. Trust me, if you buy online often enough, you’ll memorise your card details so in time, it’ll be super quick. And this way, you can at least minimise the risk of your card details getting hacked.
2. Use your credit card, not your debit card
So these days, you can use your debit card to make ‘credit’ purchases. The difference is that your debit card will withdraw the funds from your bank account to make the purchase. If you do use your debit card for online shopping and your card details become compromised or the merchant does a dodgy on you, not only does your recourse options become a bit more limited but your savings account – your cash – is open and vulnerable.
If you use your credit card and something happens, you can dispute the transaction and usually get your money back. If you use your debit card and something happens, it becomes harder to say you had nothing to do with the transaction when the money has gone out of an account in your name. For online transactions, credit card is the way to go.
3. Make sure the payments page is secure
I’ve explained this in the online shopping basics post but will reiterate it again. When you have reached the payments part of the checkout process and you are about to enter your card details, just have a quick glance at the screen to check 2 things:
- the website address starts with ‘https’ not ‘http’ as it usually is. The additional ‘s’ means the page is secure
- you can see a padlock on your screen either at the bottom right hand corner or at the top next to the website address.
See screenshot below.
4. Confirmation email after placing your order
Whilst this isn’t a failproof test, a legitimate merchant should have proper processes in place so that as soon as an order is placed, an email is generated and sent to the purchaser informing that the order has been received. After this, each time the order status changes, you should be receiving email updates to that effect. Lack of such emails could mean the site is fake and they have just taken your credit card details – and when you check back a few days later because you haven’t heard from them, their whole website could be gone. So if you don’t receive any communication from the merchant, get onto it ASAP and contact your credit card company straight away – you may even be able to stop it before they put charges on your card.
5. Read store reviews
There’s been a few of these sites popping up – a place where customer review online stores and you can look one up prior to making purchases. These sites will pay for people to write reviews as a way to incentivise them – it’s not a lot so you would have to be consistently writing reviews to earn anything remotely decent. Also, you need to give them proof of purchase – order number from the store you are reviewing – so they know you’re not just making things up. These kind of places can be handy if you want to buy from a store you have never tried before. If a lot of people have given poor ratings with bad comments, then you know to stay away. These are the ones I know of:
6. Contact the store
If you’re still really unsure of a merchant and you still really want to order from there, then contact the retailer before placing the order. If the website doesn’t even contact details, then definitely stay away – it screams ‘I am dodgy and will take your money!’ If they respond to you timely and seems legitimate, then I guess you can go ahead and order from them. Having said that, I’m very particular about where I order from and even if another place is selling for cheaper, if I have never heard of them (and I know a LOT of online stores) or the website doesn’t look good enough, then I wouldn’t go near them. Again, use your common sense.
Hopefully some of these tips serve as a timely reminder as you all go about making online purchases. We do tend to get a bit lax as time goes by and that’s when you can make a simply, silly mistake and your card details become compromised.
Happy smart shopping and hope you all got your Mother’s Day presents ready!