How to shop safely online

How to shop safely online

By: Shell Energy

20 Aug 2020

To say that online shopping is hugely popular is somewhat of an understatement.

In 2019, global ecommerce sales reached a whopping £2.8 trillion, as we logged in to checkout. In that same year, 82% of UK households purchased a product or service online.

Buying shiny new things online offers convenience, but you also need to make sure that you have a secure experience. From recognising whether you're using a legitimate or fraudulent website to inputting your payment details securely, we've put together a list of everything you need to know to shop online safely.

How can you tell if a website is safe to use?

Shopping online can be exciting, especially if you’ve found an item for a little bit less than on the high street. It’s easy to get carried away, jumping straight to the checkout and entering your card details without paying much attention to anything else.

Before buying from a website, however, you should check that it’s secure. You can do this by looking at the SSL certificate, which means a company has gone through the validation process. It’s easy to see if a website has an SSL certificate: if the web address begins with “https” instead of “http”, it means that it’s SSL verified.

Ideally, you’ll want to see an Extended Validation within an SSL website. This means the website owners have proved their identity and validity of the business. You can identify an Extended Validation by looking for the lock sign in the address bar.


How to spot online shopping warning signs

There are few things you can do to spot a fraudulent website, including reading reviews from past users. Look out for fake reviews too, which you can usually identify from unverified users or accounts that were recently created.

Be aware of potential counterfeit products on the website with aspects like low-quality images and spelling and grammar errors in the product listing. If you’re unsure, try and source information about the company. More often than not, you will find there are limited details available for websites selling counterfeit products and services. It’s also worth checking if the retailer you’re buying from is listed on Companies House, which is the UK's registrar of companies.

As a rule of thumb, if the product and its price look too good to be true, it probably is. Let’s say an item is sold for £500 on most websites, but you find it for £200 somewhere else - you should approach with caution. There’s no genuine reason why one company would sell something much cheaper than competitors.


How do you make safe payments online?

Safeguarding yourself when buying products and services online is essential, and there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. This is particularly important when sharing devices with children. Again, checking if a site is HTTPS, rather than HTTP, indicates a legitimate website.

You should also consider using online payment systems like Paypal, which provide an added layer of security in the case that you become a victim of online fraud from a counterfeit website. Credit cards also provide payment protections if you spend money online with a fraudulent website.


Using a secure network

Wi-Fi security plays a vital role in protecting you online, especially when it comes to making payments. Using a secure network means you’re generally safer when browsing and buying online, as it encrypts your connection.

For that reason, you should avoid using public Wi-Fi for purchasing products online and logging into accounts. Most public Wi-Fi operates on an open network, which means it’s easier to hack your details. Public Wi-Fi consists of internet connections in places like restaurants, shops, hotels, airports and tube stations. When possible, use your home broadband for purchases that require you to input sensitive information.


How to stay safe online

No one is guaranteed complete online safety, but there are several steps you can take to secure yourself when making payments.

  • Keep electronic receipts of the purchases you make
  • Check your bank statements to see when money came out of your account, and cross reference this with your e-receipts
  • Use effective antivirus software
  • Create long passwords that use a combination of lower and upper case, letters, numbers and symbols

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of fraud, speak to Action Fraud. They are the national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime in the UK, and are run by the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.


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