7 ways to protect yourself when shopping online

buying online
(© AdriaVidal – stock.adobe.com)

Online shopping is the new normal. Unless you live under the rocks, you probably are in on the practice, too.

But according to Statista, buying online is not without risks. Almost 75% of consumers who were targeted by online purchase scams lost their money in 2021. To think that number was only 71% in 2015 is absolutely astonishing.

Expectedly, this trend will only keep growing in the coming years, which means online shoppers will continue getting targeted.

In this post, we’re going to be discussing steps you can take to protect yourself from being a target or falling victim.

Seven ways you can avoid theft from online shopping

1. Always buy with credit cards rather than debit cards

Credit cards are usually more protected from fraud and cyberattacks than debit cards. This is because the money in them is more or less a property of the card company, while money in debit cards is technically your own money.

So, in a way, credit card companies put extra measures to protect transactions on their cards. Credit cards are also better than debit cards for online shopping in that you can dispute fraudulent transactions before and after they occur.

2. Always prioritize virtual credit cards above physical credit cards

I know we said credit cards are safer than debit cards for online shopping. But even they are not 100% scam-free. Year in, year out, we hear several reports of credit card scams.

Thankfully, virtual credit cards have come to save the day. These cards are generally safer than traditional credit cards. Which is why they are often not targeted by scammers.

Although they work similarly to traditional credit cards, virtual credit cards operate solely online with randomly generated temporary card numbers. Each time someone attempts to shop online with a virtual credit card, a unique 16-digit card number, expiry date, and CVV is generated, thus protecting the shopper’s actual account information.

Indeed, virtual cards are the way to go if you must shop online.

3. Avoid all too-good-to-be-true offers

If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

One of the ways scammers target online shoppers is by offering products at ridiculously low prices. For example, an item that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars may be advertised for as low as $500. And a greedy shopper would hop on the deal without thinking twice.

You have to know that nobody will give you anything for free online. You should run if a website or online ad is offering you a too-good-to-be-true deal.

Discount hunters are usually the biggest victims of these deals. Please know that if you must hunt for discount offers, use legit coupons and promo codes from reputed sources. Don’t just hop on a random code you find on Instagram. Instead, visit the right coupon websites or go to the company’s official website.

4. Enable 2FA on all your online apps and accounts

Another effective way to stay protected when shopping online is by enabling two-factor authentication on your mobile apps and online accounts. Most online apps and sites allow you to activate two-factor authentication before transacting on their platform. Or you can simply activate the feature on your device to synchronize with all your internet transactions.

2FA is like a watchdog that keeps track of all activities happening on an account. It helps secure your online account by adding another ‘key’ to your password. This way, if someone successfully cracks your password, they still have another layer of defense to break through.

Once activated, 2FA informs you of impending fraudulent transactions that are about to be initiated on your account. This gives you time to shoot down the activity and report to your bank.

5. Never save your card information online

It’s not uncommon to find retail websites asking consumers to save their credit card details on the site’s server. This is to make future transactions a lot more seamless and hassle-free.

While the company’s motives may be pure and honest, we cannot ignore the fact that cybercriminals sometimes target retailers, too.

By leaving your card details on a vendor’s website, you put your credit card information at risk. If the vendor’s site ever gets hacked or compromised, your details may fall into the wrong hands. Which is why we advise that you shouldn’t leave your credit card details on a site online.

“The internet today is crawling with hackers and scammers – guys with an ability to crack through anything. Leaving your card details online is like sending an open invitation to be defrauded.” – According to Becky Usanga, the co-founder of Techy10.

6. Remove the autofill feature from your browsers

Upon your first entry, your browser may ask you whether you’d like to save your credit card details for autofill next time. Please decline this request. If you’ve activated the autocomplete feature on any browser on your phone or desktop, please go and deactivate it now.

Allowing your browser to autofill credit card details is almost like leaving your card details on a vendor’s website online. Lots of malicious websites target shoppers’ browser applications with bugs that can spy on information stored on the browser.

When you visit this site, the bugs will sift through your browser history for essential details stored within. It will then pass the information along to the scammer’s device. To be on the safer side, always toggle off Password and Forms autofill feature on all your devices.

If you use Chrome, you can do that by going to ‘Settings,’ then ‘Advanced.’ In that section, you’ll find the Passwords and Forms section. Tap on the Autofill settings to reveal saved passwords and credit card details. Delete all saved details and toggle off the Autofill Forms button.

7. Avoid purchasing online with ‘free wifi’

I know we all love free wifi; who doesn’t? But you must know that everything that comes for free also comes with a price. And in this case, the price is network security.

In most cases, public free wifi connections are usually not secured. And as a result, they’re easily targeted by hackers.

As an online shopper, you want to avoid transacting online whenever you’re connected to a free wifi. Scammers have the ability to position themselves between you and a connection spot, thus spying on vital details like your credit card numbers.

 

Story by Uday Tank. He is a serial entrepreneur and content marketing leader who serves the international community at Rankwisely. He enjoys writing, including marketing, productivity, business, health, diversity, and management.

Linda J. Picard

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