The shopping season is just around the corner, and you might be looking to get your shopping done quickly and easily by simply going online. While the perks—which include fast (and sometimes free) shipping, as well as saved time, effort, and money—make it an ideal option, it does have its share of downsides. Buying online can be a gamble, with inaccurate sizing, misleading product descriptions, or payment issues. It also comes with more serious threats, from cyber criminals to online scammers aiming for your personal information or money.
What to watch out for when shopping online
The e-commerce industry is still growing as more users turn to websites that cater to different niches. As the industry grows, cybercriminals are continuously finding ways to take advantage of unaware users or unsecured processes. With that being said, simply being aware of the most common online threats can help ensure a safer online shopping experience. Here are some of the basic web threats you need to be aware of:
- Spam/junk mail – we all encounter this seemingly harmless threat almost every day. Spam or junk mail may seem like your inbox’s annoying mainstays, but they may contain risky links that could lead to the download of malware.
- Phishing – this is a method that involves the use of email, instant messages, social media posts, fake websites, and even phone calls to steal information. Phishing attempts are designed to look legitimate, but in reality, they’re used to trick users into divulging personal information or login credentials.
- Adware – these come in the form of pop-ups or Web links that deliver advertisements without your permission. Though not inherently harmful, adware can display highly-targeted ads based on data collected by spyware. Essentially, they are designed to track your browsing habits.
While you’re probably bound to run into these common threats at some point, there are still some very helpful and effective security measures you can take. Follow these steps to safeguard your online shopping security and privacy:
- Connect to a secure network – avoid using open or public Wi-Fi. There’s a bigger chance for attackers to intercept your connection and obtain your access details such as passwords, and usernames.
- Bookmark websites – to avoid typing in the wrong address, always bookmark your most trusted shopping sites.
- Avoid opening unusual emails and links – to the untrained eye, distinguishing a valid email from a fake one could be a little difficult. If you want to make sure, look out for outrageous subject lines that come with “offers” that seem too good to be true. If you’re still unsure, you can double check with an official source.
- Think before you click – as mentioned above, ads could be more than just pesky pop-ups. Be wary of ads that come from sites you visit, including social media sites, as malicious ads can be tailored to compel a click that can infect your system with malware.
- Security patches and browser updates – keeping browsers and apps updated can lessen the risk of vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
- Read your EULA (end-user license agreement) – this is a good security practice that most users take for granted just because they are simply too lazy. But if you want to beef up your security and avoid unwanted privacy issues, your EULA will inform you of what you are getting yourself into. Software publishers should inform you if the app or service monitors your online activities, or if they give your information to third parties.
- Make sure the order checkout is encrypted – hackers can easily exploit vulnerabilities to obtain personal details like your password or other information. If you’re going to shop online, do business with sites that use encrypted payment forms.
- Keep track of your bank or credit statements – to ensure that no fraudulent charges are being posted to your accounts, check your statements regularly for any unverified transactions.