From how we socialize to how we keep up to date with news, everything is moving online. The same goes for shopping, too. Buying things online has grown massively in the past few decades. According to reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau in Q2 of 2021, retail e-commerce estimated sales amounted to a whopping $222.5 billion. For the sake of comparison, retail e-commerce estimated sales totaled just $47.5 billion in 2011.
With the holiday shopping season around the corner, there’s no better time to purchase the items you seek at the best possible price. However, as with anything on the internet, there are certain risks related to shopping online. In this guide, we’ll show you how to protect yourself while buying things online on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s:
10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping and Buying
- Check for HTTPS
Never use your credit card to purchase anything online from a website that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption. If the site supports SSL, the URL will begin with HTTPS rather than just HTTP. A symbol of a locked padlock will be displayed, usually to the left of the URL in the address bar. HTTPS is now required even on non-shopping websites, and Google Chrome alerts pages without the additional S as “not secure.”
- Pay with a Credit Card
To shop as safely as possible, always use a credit card. For starters, they don’t provide a seller with direct access to the funds in your bank account. Second, most credit cards have $0 fraud liability, meaning you won’t lose any money if a thief steals your account information to make a transaction. Your credit card provider will contact you, examine the fraudulent activity, and issue you a replacement card.
- Choose Robust Passwords
Your passwords should be uncrackable. It’s especially vital when it comes to online shopping, so don’t forget to use a mix of lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Furthermore, avoid using dictionary words and personal information that a thief could guess or find without much effort.
Passwords should never be reused between sites either. Otherwise, a data breach at one organization may give hackers access to your other accounts. You may also use a password manager to generate uncrackable passwords and store them for you in one place.
Related Read: How to Secure Your Password – A Comprehensive Guide
- Install an Antivirus Program
Fraudsters don’t just trick their targets to give them information; in some instances, they’ll infect their device with data-stealing malware to speed up the process. Therefore, it’s important you take the necessary precautions for protecting yourself from malware, and one of the best ways to do that is by installing a good antivirus program.
If possible, invest in a full-fledged security suite that not only has antivirus software but also combats phishing attacks, spam, and other threats. Also, keep your anti-malware tools up-to-date if you don’t want to fall victim to new threats.
- Purchase from Reputed Retailers
You should only shop from known and trusted online retailers. To get to your favorite shopping sites quickly and safely, bookmark them and avoid putting the retailer’s name into your browser’s address bar. A single misspelling could lead you to a bogus site that seems identical to the real one. When you make a purchase on a shady site, you may unintentionally send over your credit card number and other sensitive information to the scammers.
- Connect to a Virtual Private Network
Shopping online is convenient and easy, but you must take precautions to reduce risk. Unsecured Wi-Fi can reveal your credit card number and other personal information when you type them into shopping sites. That’s not all – your ISP may be able to monitor your activities and keep track of your preferences, as well!
By using a VPN on your device, you can leverage top-of-the-line encryption and secure yourself while shopping and making payments online. A VPN also helps you find location restricted deals that normally can’t be seen by letting you switch your virtual location to any country in the world.
- Beware of “too good to be true” Deals
When an online retailer is offering too much for too less, exercise caution. If the price looks too good to be true, then it’s likely that you’re on a phony site – these are often set up to steal your money or personal information. The same goes for Instagram or Facebook ads offering dirt cheap prices or eye-popping free offers, don’t fall for them.
- Use a Virtual Credit Card for Extra Security
A virtual credit card can offer even more protection while shopping online. Some credit card companies will provide you with a temporary card number that’s connected to your account. You can purchase online using the temporary number without giving your real credit card information to the seller. Even if a hacker somehow obtains the virtual credit card number and attempts to use it later, they won’t be able to do much.
- Check Bank Statements Regularly
Make it a practice to go through your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent transactions at least once a week. Set up account notifications to be notified of any new card activity. Upon receiving a text or email notification, you can check your account to make sure the charge is one you’re aware of.
- Don’t Overshare Your Personal Information
A good rule of thumb is that no shopping site should ever request your Social Security number. If they ask for this sort of very personal information, close the tab immediately. Ideally, you should share the bare minimum of personal information with sellers for making a purchase.
10 Best Online Shopping Sites You Can Trust
There’s a plethora of online shopping sites to choose from. If you do a quick search on Google or any other search engine, you’ll come across more online stores than you can count. However, which ones are the best and safest to use? Find our recommendations listed below:
Etsy is a worldwide marketplace where you can find items made by very talented and creative artisans from every corner of the globe. Here, you will get anything from caramel apples to homemade soap and crystal necklaces, and often great deals, as well.
Amazon has grown from a modest bookstore to a massive internet presence, with millions of offerings to pick from. The corporation not only brings you items from its own warehouses, but also from vendors all around the world who can sell their own wares.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the items that retailers buy in excess? One answer to that question is Overstock.com. This online store offers a wide variety of items across categories like kitchen, furniture, apparel, home improvement, rugs, and outdoor.
eBay is basically an online auction platform that allows you to put bids on products you want to buy. The site sells a wide selection of things that are placed up for sale by individual vendors, so you’ll discover both new and used stuff.
Wish is regarded as one of the best cheap online shopping sites. It’s the best place to go if you seek amazing deals and unique items. The bargains are usually worth it if you don’t mind the odd extended wait for your purchase.
Zappos initially started off by only selling shoes, but has subsequently evolved to include everything from women’s clothing to children’s clothing, men’s accessories, and handbags. The site is well-organized with the major menu items being Sale, Women, Brands, Men, Departments, and Kids.
Sears is an online store that sells a wide range of products in different categories, including fitness, electronics, and homeware. This is an online shopping site that, in terms of product diversity, can be compared to the likes of Amazon.
- Google Shopping
Google Shopping is one of the most powerful yet overlooked ways to shop at numerous popular stores at the same time. Just type what you want to purchase on Google, and it will display results from dozens of retailers. The results can be filtered by delivery estimate, category, features, type, price, etc.
Kohl’s is a popular department store with an extensive online selection of products. The site sells clothing from well-known brands like Levi’s, as well as a broad range of general houseware, furniture, and jewelry.
- Best Buy
Best Buy is an electronics shop offering appealing bargains on its website. If you’re in the market for a new phone, laptop, or speaker system, Best Buy is a great place to go because it has a large selection, gives frequent promotions, and offers curbside pickup.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping
While there are several advantages to buying things online, there are also certain disadvantages to be aware of. These include the following:
Pros of Buying Things Online
Convenience, Convenience, Convenience
The most significant advantage of shopping online is its convenience. You can buy what you want from the comfort of your own home. Given that online stores are available 24/7 and accessible from any device with an internet connection, it’s simple to incorporate online shopping into your schedule, no matter how hectic it is. You don’t have to schedule your purchases around the hours when a physical business is open and ready to serve you.
Information is Easily Accessible
When you purchase online, you’ll usually find more information on a company’s items than you would find in a real store. Instead of dealing with only one or two salespeople in person, you can look up product descriptions, related product recommendations, and customer reviews to help you make a more educated purchase choice.
A Wider Selection of Items
Because online items exist solely in the digital realm, online retailers are not bound by shelf space and frequently have more inventory on hand, as well as a greater range of products. Furthermore, online buying allows you to purchase anything from any vendor, regardless of your location. If you’re looking for a new light, for example, you’ll have more possibilities than if you simply shop in your neighborhood.
Cons of Buying Things Online
It Can Be Pricier
For a variety of reasons, online purchases can be more expensive. While many big online retailers provide free delivery, they usually have a minimum purchase requirement. Furthermore, vendors may employ a variety of tactics to persuade you to purchase more products or costlier items than you would if you were shopping in person.
There Are Longer Wait Times
When you shop at a physical store, you can take the item you purchased with you and use or wear it right away. You may have to wait days, weeks, or even months for your product to arrive if you shop online. Going to an in-person business may be a better alternative if you’re in a hurry and need something immediately, such as a present.
Increases the likelihood of Fraud
Unfortunately, online shopping frauds are rampant these days. As of February 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that online shopping was the second most prevalent kind of consumer fraud. Scammers use phony sites or build fraudulent adverts on legitimate sites to impersonate real online retailers.
Wrapping Things Up
The benefits of online shopping can’t be denied, but you always have to keep yourself secure to prevent becoming a victim to fraud or theft. Follow the tips we’ve mentioned above during this holiday shopping season and buy things online in a safe manner.