Don't forget to keep yourself safe when shopping online

On July 9, 2014

freeWhether we’re looking for brand new electronic gadgets, a second-hand treasure or even the weekly groceries, the internet has changed the way many of us shop. Shopping online can be simple, convenient and it can also save you money but it is important to take security issues seriously.

Keep your machine clean

Viruses and malware can do all sorts of nasty things, from corrupting files to installing a program that can allow cyber-criminals to monitor your keystrokes when you enter passwords and other sensitive information. You should always have an active firewall and anti-virus software (AVG and Avast are both free and quite popular) and perform regular scans to sweep for anything that might have got through.

Don’t make transactions from unsecured wireless networks

If you’re in a cafe or hotel and you’ve managed to connect to the wifi network without entering a password you should avoid making any transactions in that session. Hackers can “listen” to what’s happening on unsecured networks a lot easier and can potentially get ahold of your card details.

Make sure the site is legitimate

You should always make sure that any site on which you make a payment or enter other important information is legitimate and secure. Do a bit of research on any vendor you’re unfamiliar with and make sure the site is protected by SSL or secure socket layer security. This is a standard protocol that encrypts information passed between your computer and the website’s secure server, protecting your details from being hacked or hijacked during the transaction process. A site with SSL will display ‘https:’ rather than ‘http’. Depending on the type of certificate and your web browser, you may also see a padlock icon and your address bar turning green to indicate safety.

Use strong passwords

A strong password with a combination of letters and numbers can help improve your online security. Avoid names, birth dates and commonly used sequences like ‘12345’ or ‘PASSWORD’ – both of which are depressingly common. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts and make sure you change them sporadically. 

Use secure payment methods 

Even when you are using a site with an SSL certificate, it can be better to use a credit rather than a debit card to make major purchases of over £100. This is because credit cards offer extra consumer protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Essentially, this gives you a chance to claim your money back from your credit card provider if, for example, the vendor goes bust and you don’t receive the item you ordered. Some sellers will, however, charge a small processing fee for credit card payments. Another option is using a third-party payment service like PayPal, which means you don’t have to enter any payment details beyond your PayPal email and password on the vendor’s website.