How to Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Hands holding credit card and using laptop. Online shopping

Long gone are the days when we had to make the arduous trek to the mall to pick up the latest gadget or accessory on the market. With advances in technology, you can now order an iPhone online and have it delivered to your home overnight without even leaving the couch!

The e-commerce trend has surged since the Covid-19 pandemic, with Statista noting that global online retail sales jumped from 16.07 billion visits in January 2020 to nearly 22 billion in June of the same year.

Unfortunately, the digital retail market is harder to regulate than brick-and-mortar trade. With scam stores popping up everywhere, you need to be vigilant when shopping online. Here are 5 ways to keep yourself safe:

1) Research the company

If you see an advert on Facebook for a super cheap laptop that seems too good to be true, do your research before handing over your credit card information. One way to vet a business is to check the company details on LinkedIn. Legitimate sites are more likely to have a LinkedIn page. Reputable businesses are also more likely to participate in groups and content creation on the platform.

2) Use Sites with Secure Payment Methods

E-commerce websites generally have a number of payment methods available. Where possible, pay through a third-party such as Paypal. Paypal will make the payment on your behalf, without ever exposing your credit card or bank account details to the seller. In the event that you do not receive your product or there is a fault, you can also file a dispute to have your money refunded. Unscrupulous sites rarely use Paypal due to the protection it offers customers, preferring credit card transactions.

Additionally, check the website’s URL before entering your personal details. Websites beginning with “HTTPS” automatically encrypt data to protect passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information, while ‘HTTP’ addresses do not. This adds an extra layer of security to your browsing experience.

3) Utilize Word of Mouth

Another way to determine whether an online store will deliver on its promises is to ask around in your social circle. While experiences may vary between customers, if your friend or family member has had a positive shopping experience, the chances are they’ve already completed some of the vetting process above for you. 

4) Check Trustpilot

Trustpilot is a Danish-based website, established in 2007, which hosts consumer reviews of businesses around the globe. Trustpilot has a more rigorous screening process for reviews than competitors, such as Yelp, with reviewers being asked to keep documentary evidence that they have actually had an interaction with the brand. This helps to combat fake reviews and ensure the integrity of business ratings. Read through the reviews of any business you are concerned about purchasing from to reveal possible issues with delivery, quality or responsiveness.

By completing the checks above before opening your wallet, you can drastically lessen your chance of being scammed when shopping online.