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Published: 25/11/17 by Becky Ashton

5 ways to stay safe shopping online

With Black Friday deals and sales pre-Christmas sales in full swing, now is more important than ever to stay safe when shopping online.

Fake sites, malware and identity theft often catch people out at this time of year but how can you make sure you and your information remain private and secure?

What to look for

When you find the product you want to buy, look for HTTPS in the URL of the online store.

Always shop when you see a padlock, rather than a HTTP address. Not every site will have an SSL certificate on their whole website but it is essential to see one when it comes to making payment. That way you know that all of the information you are sending is secure.

If you are using an online store, which doesn’t have any bricks and mortar stores, check for an address and a returns policy – so if there is a problem with what you order you have somewhere to go to get a refund/exchange.

It is also worth checking the company’s privacy policy, so you know exactly what they will do with your information.

Gut instinct

When shopping online if you see an offer which sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will throw up lots of great offers and when it comes to the must-have products it’s easy to get carried away and take a risk. One which can end up being costly.

If at any time during the buying process you feel uneasy about the authenticity of the website, walk away. If you see spelling mistakes, broken links or you think you are being asked for too much information then all is likely to not be as it seems, so quit the transaction and leave the website.

If you’re worried about being scammed make sure you only buy from well-known websites that you trust.

Scepticism could go a long way towards saving you from a scam.

Be extra careful when you shop on your phone

Mobile phones have now surpassed computers when it comes to accessing the internet as it’s often so much quicker and easier to pick up your phone, rather than power up a laptop, and complete the purchase. But many phones and tablets aren’t as protected against threats as your laptop and desktop computers.

Malware can be a big problem, as criminals access your devices to steal vital information.

The shortened URLs that are often used, because they’re more phone-friendly, can also trick you into visiting a risky site as it’s harder to tell whether it’s secure or trusted. It’s also harder to see the padlock.

If you do want to use your phone, download the official store app and buy through there.

Never use public Wi-Fi

Whenever you log onto a public wifi network you are putting yourself at risk of identity theft as most hotspots do not encrypt your data, leaving it exposed to hackers.

Always wait until you get home so you can do your shopping via a protected network, it might take a bit longer to complete the purchase but it could save you a lot of time and stress in the long term.

Be selective about how you pay

Paying by credit card is still the safest option all round because you stand the best chance of getting any money back you are the victim of fraud. But you need to be on top of transactions to make sure you’re not caught out.

Banks do often flag up ‘fraudulent activity’ but you need to do your bit too. Don’t wait for your credit card bill, or bank statement to come at the end of the month, instead keep an eye on your online banking for any odd transactions you don’t recognise.

If you do see anything you don’t like the look of, or can’t recall, contact your bank or credit card company and dispute the charge. The benefit of paying on a credit card is that you have 30 days to spot and report any issues you might have before you are liable for any charges.

If you’re wary about spending money online and worry about cybersecurity then a virtual credit card number could be perfect for you.

They allow you to shop online without revealing your real account number. They also allow you to set the amount and time frame for a purchase and then send you a card number to use online – reducing any chance of fraud.

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