Safety Tips for Shopping Online

Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa as more and more people are discovering the convenience of transacting online. But while online shopping does offer convenience and great deals it is also important to be aware of the risks and protect yourself accordingly.

Fraudsters are increasingly turning to the anonymity of the internet to rip-off unsuspecting consumers. By following some basic precautions you can reduce your chances of falling victim to an online scam.

Common types of scams:

Fake website – This is a website which is either pretending to be a legitimate business when it is not or one which mimics an existing genuine online business by using a similar website address.

Online auction/online classifieds scams – These take place on online shopping sites which merely act as facilitators between buyers and sellers. Because of this they take many forms including, the selling of goods which are counterfeit or otherwise significantly differ from the original description, getting deposits or payments for goods which are then never delivered, or conversely, providing false proof of payment to sellers when collecting goods.

Ticket scams – any website which offers tickets for hard-to-get or sold out music or sporting events should be treated with suspicion. The tickets are either never received or counterfeit.

Phishing emails – this is when you receive and email which looks like it is from a legitimate and well-known online business or service. They generally contain a link to a fake but credible looking website where you will be asked to update your personal or account information. Legitimate online businesses will never ask you to do this through email.

Safety tips for shopping online

You can avoid being caught out by following some simple precautions:

Protect your computer – make sure your security software and antivirus is up to date and exercise caution when using public computers to make purchases.

Research the seller – check for online reviews and customer feedback. See if the website lists a physical address and telephone number or terms and conditions and a privacy policy.

Use strong passwords – when setting up online accounts use passwords which contain a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Always use different passwords for different accounts.

Check the website’s security – When you proceed to the checkout stage of an online purchase make sure that a padlock symbol is displayed next to the address bar and that the website address begins with ‘https’. Also make sure the site utilises a trusted payment gateway.

Keep a record – keep a record of all your online transactions and regularly check them against your bank statement. Monitor your bank, credit card and store card for unusual transactions.