Online shopping has increased in popularity and, in many households, it’s become the norm. Gone are the days of transport costs and spending time in queues.
We have a look at the safety of online shopping, and we give tips on how you can protect your financial details.
Tip: Don’t go shopping for luxuries until your debt is under control. Consider debt consolidation.
Identifying red flags
According to an article by Business Insider, in the first half of 2020, consumers spent nearly 30% more on online shopping than they did in the entire year before. Post-pandemic arrival, online shopping is on the rise, and South Africans are quickly adjusting their shopping habits.
There are many perks to online shopping. But there are also risks that need to be kept in mind, such as the safety of sharing your personal financial details.
Maeson Maherry, CEO and co-founder of LAWtrust Information Security, says that online shopping is generally convenient and safe, but we must remain vigilant.
He explains that crime is also digitalising, and impersonation is now a common occurrence. He recommends remembering the childhood phrase “stranger danger” when shopping online.
“If you’re visiting a website that you’re familiar with, or it’s a known brand, you can relax a little. But if you’re visiting a website for the first time, or you’ve never heard of the brand, you first need to research the organisation to make sure they’re legitimate,” says Maherry.
He suggests looking for customer reviews. If no one is talking about them favourably – or at all – it’s best to stay away from their website.
Maherry says you should also look for a padlock icon preceding the website URL. Legitimate sites will identify themselves with an SSL certificate, and this is what the padlock signifies.
“A padlock next to the URL means that the data or information you enter into the website is safe and encrypted. It also means that a third party has verified the business and can confirm that it exists,” says Maherry.
As a final check, if the website or the deals you’re finding online appear to be too good to be true, then they probably are.
How to protect your personal financial information
Maherry says you should be wary of public Wi-Fi networks. While known hotspots, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, are usually safe, an unknown network could belong to a hacker who will be able to access your personal information.
“You should also be mindful of your payment method. If you have a choice, use a debit card instead of a credit card. However, it’s preferable to use a virtual wallet in South Africa, such as PayPal or PayFast, because they will protect your information from third parties,” says Maherry.
He adds that you should avoid easy-to-guess passwords, or using the same password on multiple websites.
“When a retailer is hacked, cybercriminals will try one password on multiple websites, which often leads to greater security risks. The best option is to use a password manager which will choose a strong password for you,” Maherry notes.
In addition to the above, Maherry suggests always keeping your software and applications up to date to minimise risk. Always check your bank statements to ensure there are no unauthorised payments.
In spite of taking every precaution, you may still find yourself in murky waters. If you find out that a website you recently visited was hacked, or if you have become suspicious about a brand or site you patronised, you need to take action immediately.
As a first step, Maherry says, block your card. It may be a major inconvenience, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Certain banks have introduced virtual cards which make the process much easier. But cancelling your card is the safest thing to do. In addition, you can also keep your card limit to a minimum,” says Maherry.
You can apply for a credit card if you have a good credit score. Register with JustMoney to find out.