Is shopping online safe?

Shopping online offers you several advantages such as speed, the convenience of doing it from your desk rather than braving traffic, and a wide choice... But these advantages can only benefit you if you take care of the most important aspect while shopping online: safety.

Safety is of prime importance when shopping online - you can face not only commercial loss if you are not careful, but in extreme cases stand a chance of your identity being appropriated. The following tips can help you determine whether the website you are planning to use is secure and trustworthy or not.

Here are a few tips that would help you when you are looking to shop online;

Before you select a store

Do your homework. Go through the ratings and reviews given by previous customers of the website. Make sure you have one other way of contacting them; a phone number or a mailing address. Also, gather information about the website from the 'About us' section.

Review their shipping methods and policies to determine what carriers they use, their shipping rates, and if they provide tracking and insurance. Also find out where they ship from-goods are sometimes sent from international locations, which require customs and extra time.

Misspellings and grammatical errors are indicators that a website might be fraudulent. You can simply browse through the website to check if it is authenticated and protected. Trust marks such as the VeriSign Secured Seal, or a green address bar in Internet explorer.

Colour-coded address bars are a feature of Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, which provide added information about a website's authenticity.

Choosing a payment service

Always be sure of your method of payment. If you have a choice, follow these tips to choose a more secure service:

Read the privacy policy and make sure you agree with it. If you don't, go elsewhere.

Check for a stamp of approval from the BBBOnline (the Better Business Bureau Online) or Verisign.

Find out what others say about the service: check with your colleagues and friends.

Avoid third-party payment

Never respond to e-mail messages from third-party payment services asking you to confirm account details, such as passwords or other personally identifiable information. These e-mail messages could be an identity theft scam, such as phishing.

Type the address of the payment service directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you need to update your account information or change your password, visit the Web site by using your personal bookmark or by typing the URL directly into your browser.

Check if the seller has been a verified member of the payment service for a few months or more. Some sites also allow you to check the seller's rating-although these ratings cannot be guaranteed, they can be helpful

Never use your account to transfer money for someone else that you don't know. This might be an advanced fee fraud.

Be more careful when you purchase very expensive items, such as jewelry or computers, especially around the holidays and for items that are sold out in stores.

Before you enter your credit card number

  • So, you've found the perfect item at the perfect price and you're ready the purchase. Before you enter your credit card number, make sure the store you've chosen abides by the following rules.

  • The company should only require personal information that's necessary to complete the purchase: You will probably enter your credit card number, address, and telephone number. Be wary if they ask for other information such as your PAN card, bank account numbers, license numbers or your mother's maiden name.

  • The Web site should use secure technology. When you get to the screen where you enter your credit card number or other personal information, make sure that the Web address begins with https and check to see if a tiny locked padlock appears at the bottom right of the screen, as shown in the following image.

In your internet explorer there is another layer of protection with sites that use Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates. The address bar should turn green to alert you that there is more information available about the Web site. The identity of the Web site owner is also displayed on the address bar.

Update your internet explorer regularly

Internet Explorer includes improved security features that make it easier to see which sites provide more secure data exchange, so you can shop and bank online with confidence.

Hence, it is important to that it keep updating it regularly. You can download Internet Explorer 8 which also has a protection from malware and phishing. The anti-malware protection works by presenting you with a warning or blocking screen when you visit a malicious site or attempt to download a malicious program

It is also important to keep all the other software on your PC up to date - use Microsoft Update to install all critical and optional updates, and make sure your browser add-ons and other applications are current. You should also install a current anti-virus product and keep its signatures up to date.

Pay attention to security warnings from your firewall and anti-virus software - but beware of the kinds of fake security warnings described in this paper - and make sure your firewall is on and up to date. And, finally, make sure that your Internet service provider has spam protection, so that less unwanted and fraudulent email reaches your inbox.

Finally I would say that when it comes to online shopping, you need to 'trust your instinct', if something doesn't 'feel' right even though you can't quite put your finger on it, it is advisable to listen to your instinct.

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