Shopping Online - Safely

Written by Adam Stafford - 14 Nov 2007

We were asked today to consider an article for 'Shopping Online - Safely' - here is what we wrote:

Even the most experienced online shoppers can still get things wrong. It is common knowledge that you should always look for the 'padlock' that appears on the secure pages of the shopping cart process; if there isn't a padlock on the page that is asking you for you personal details and card information then don't use it! People often think that the buck stops here but there are other buying techniques that you can easily consider that will make the whole experience a little bit safer.When shopping on a new website I will always check for the following:

1. Is there a telephone number clearly shown on the website? If it is a significant order I also tend to call the number to ensure that it belongs to the company and make sure that they are easy to contact if I should happen to have a problem with my order.

2. Is there an address on the website. Any established ecommerce store should have address details shown on their website. This might often appear in their terms, about us, or contact us page.

3. Ensure you see a returns policy. What is going to happen if you are delivered a product that doesn't work?

4. I personally never trust a seller that asks for the money to be sent via cheque before they are happy to dispatch the goods. Why don't they own a sellers PayPal account instead?

5. The padlock within the shopping cart process; this appears (usually) in the bottom right hand corner of your browser. If you double click on the padlock icon you will see the basic details of their security certificate.

HOT TIP: Something that I only recently started doing was ensuring that I used my credit card for all transactions rather than use my debit card. If money is fraudulently taken from your credit card it does not extract the money directly out of your current account. You have more protection with your credit card and if a fraudulent transaction is detected it can be sorted without having an impact on your savings account.

Not all sites accept PayPal but more and more people are inclined to use PayPal when it is an option.For the people who have wireless installed at home ensure that you are using the best encryption available. WPA is my preferred level of encryption.

Keep your computer free of malware (malicious software) by ensuring that your protection is up to date and effective. This should consist of anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a good firewall.

You should also keep a close eye on your credit reports. If fraudsters have managed to acquire any of your personal details you may be at risk of identity theft.