15 Ways to Shop Online Securely

With the winter holidays just around the corner, everyone is thinking about buying gifts. Most importantly, they’re thinking about where to buy them! Standing in a long line at a shopping mall while surrounded by hundreds of other people can be stressful. That’s why so many shoppers are deciding to stay home and buy their gifts from the comfort of their couch instead! Shoppers are buying books, magazines, newspapers, and even vacations, and seniors are no exception to this trend. In fact, they’re breaking stereotypes and digital barriers left and right. An eMarketer study found that seniors are more likely to shop online than any other age group. 77% of seniors log on to the internet to shop, up from 41% in 2007. 47% of e-commerce savvy seniors shop online at least once a month, 37% shop online monthly, and 10% shop online at least once a week. As Jim Davidson reported for ClickZ, younger generations are realizing that they need to “give seniors more credit for being technologically savvy.” While you might not know how to join this trend and shop online just yet, our Ottawa and Gatineau technology tutors can give you the computer assistance you need to shop stress-free this holiday season.

However, you might have some reservations about the dangers of shopping online, and you’re not alone. Protecting personal information is important. With concerns about stolen identities and credit card numbers, seniors are more focused on keeping their information safe than younger generations, and for good reason. But by learning smart online shopping techniques, you can keep your information safe and buy holiday gifts with no more worries than if you were to buy your gifts from a mall. Students for Seniors can help you do just that. Follow our list of the top 15 ways you can shop online securely, and you’ll be able to keep your information safe!

1. Just Browse/Window Shop

A common perception is that shopping online means completing purchases online. However, you can shop online without providing your credit card or other personal information at all! Take advantage of company websites to window shop. Instead of driving around the city to compare prices, you can find the best deal while relaxing on your couch. Simply log on to store websites and view products online. You can also read customer reviews for the products and see its details and measurements! Then when you’ve found the perfect product, you check which store location in your city has it, and go directly there!

2. Use Trusted Websites

If you are planning to buy a product online, be careful. Scammers will often create store websites that look legitimate, but aren’t. If you’re not familiar with a particular company or website, don’t give out your information. Instead, shop on the website of a company you trust and know will provide you with good customer service.  You’ll know that if you have a problem with your order, they’ll rectify the situation immediately. Most importantly, you’ll know you can trust them when they say that they will only use your information to process your order, and that they will keep it safe and secure.

However, it’s important to be careful and make sure that you’re on the company’s official website. Sometimes scammers will make websites that look like an official website but aren’t. As soon as you enter your information to log in or buy a product, they’ll use it to their advantage. Always double check the website address. If Store A’s official website is store-a.ca but you’re on storea.ca or store-a.net, for example, you’re not actually on the store’s website. Don’t enter your personal information. Close the window immediately and visit the proper website address instead.

3. Use Official Mobile Apps

Many people use a mobile device, such as a phone or a tablet, instead of a laptop or desktop computer to shop online. Mobile devices provide a great way to avoid being bamboozled by an official-looking but fake website. Most large companies such as Amazon and Target have official apps that you can download to shop with. If you use the official apps you can safely and securely make a direct purchase from the retailers without worrying about unsafe websites. Just make sure that the developer of the app your download is the official company. The developer’s name will be listed next to the app’s name on iTunes and Google Play.

4. Use Secure Websites

Secure sites use encryption to prevent your information from being stolen. It’s important that you only provide your credit card number or other information on a secure website. You can tell if a website is secure if you look at its address and it starts with “https” instead of “http.” For example, if Store B is secure, its website address will read “https://store-b.com.” If it’s not secure, it will read “http://store-b.com.” If a website doesn’t use encryption or asks for your information over email, don’t share anything. It’s up to you to make sure that you keep your information as safe as possible.

5. Don’t Share Everything

When you buy an item online, most websites only need your name, address, phone number, credit card number, and credit card security code. If a website asks for any more information than that, don’t provide it. Companies don’t need your social security number or birth date to process purchases, but scammers who are looking to steal your identity do.

6. Be Vigilant

Check your credit card bill regularly to make sure no suspicious charges have been placed on it. While most banks have safeguards in place to catch suspicious credit card activity (check out our blog post about this!) it never hurts to check your statements yourself, just to be safe. If you do notice strange activity on your account, notify your bank immediately so they can take care of the issue as soon as possible.

 7. Stay Protected

Malware and viruses can infect your computer and steal your passwords and other personal information. Always have an anti-virus program on your computer, and complete scans and anti-virus updates regularly to make sure your computer is clean.

8. Don’t Save Your Billing Information

Many online stores allow you to save your billing information to your account so that you won’t have to enter it every time you want to make a purchase. However, if your account is compromised, hackers can find your saved information and use it to their advantage. While saving your information makes online shopping more convenient, it’s a good idea to avoid saving it to keep your personal information safe.

9. Be Smart With Your Passwords

Most people use the same password for every account. This isn’t a good idea, though. If a hacker learns the password to one of your accounts, the rest of your accounts will be compromised. You can prevent this from happening by using a different password for every account. You can always write them down in a notebook and keep the book in a safe place at home. If you forget or lose a password, websites always have a recovery system so you can retrieve your old password or create a new one as well.

Most importantly, you should always keep your passwords difficult to guess. Accounts with simple passwords such as your name, address, or “1234” can be easily hacked. Pay attention to the password difficulty meter most websites have. Use numbers and a mix of lower and uppercase letters. Some websites even let you include punctuation in your password! Take advantage of this. The bottom line is that the more complicated and random your password is, the better.

 10. Use Your Own Device

If your device isn’t working, it can be tempting to use a computer at your local library branch or another public location when you want to make a purchase. However, public computers are often part of public networks and aren’t secure. Your information could be saved and viewed by later users of the computer, and users could access your personal information through the network. To avoid this, only use your own device to do your online shopping.

 11. Use a Secure Internet Connection

Only shop while using your own internet connection. Most importantly, make sure your connection is secure – that it can only be accessed with a code and a password you have. While it’s nice to browse online using a free, public Wi-Fi connection at your local café, it’s never a good idea to give out personal information on such networks, as public networks are rarely secure. As an extra measure, turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features when you’re not using them. If you really need to buy something while you’re away from home, use your mobile device’s data plan instead.

12. Conduct Research

It’s a good idea to conduct research on a company’s policies. Read its refund rules so you know what your options are and what you’re entitled to if something goes wrong. It’s always best to be prepared! Moreover, if you’re unsure about the legitimacy or customer service of a website and want to ensure that you’ll have a positive experience, read customer reviews about the website. It’s also a good idea to research the company even if it seems legitimate. Many people have fallen for websites that provide appealing photos of items, only to receive the wrong product and no refund. Simply open up your favourite search engine such as Google or Bing and look into the company’s track record. While this might take time, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

13. Be Smart with Gift Cards

During the holidays, a lot of people go online to sell gift cards they’ve received and aren’t planning to use. They often offer a discount; for example, a $25.00 gift card may be offered for $20.00, so the buyers save $5.00. These gift card sales may seem like a great way to save money on holiday gift card purchases. However, there’s no way to be certain that the gift card you’re paying for actually has the amount of money on it that it says it does. Avoid these situations and buy gift cards directly from stores instead.

14. Be Skeptical

The holidays are the time of year that many people fall for online shopping scams. The most popular scams offer deals that almost seem too good to be true: a free tablet or diamond necklace with purchase, for example. A good rule of thumb for the internet is that if something seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing more valuable than a healthy dose of skepticism. Don’t fall for suspicious scams. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and to protect your personal information. If you feel any doubt, don’t click the “buy” button. Close the window instead.

Do you shop online? What convinced you to make the jump? Comment below or share this post with friends or family members who might be interested. Be sure to check back next week for our next post!

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