Online shopping – it’s a convenience that can become a liability if security isn't your first checkout item.
Shop with confidence: Master the art of secure online purchases
Online shopping offers convenience, variety, and savings, but it also requires vigilance to ensure that your financial and personal information remains secure. The key to safe online shopping isn't just about knowing where to shop, but also how to check if a site is trustworthy and a transaction is secure. In the digital marketplace, where new shops open with a click, understanding the signs of a secure website is as crucial as finding the best deals, , especially in the run up to that online rush, Black Friday.
Recognizing secure websites
Secure websites use encryption to protect the data you share, like your credit card and personal information, from being intercepted by hackers. The first indicator of a secure website is the presence of 'HTTPS' in the web address instead of 'HTTP.' The 'S' stands for 'secure' and is accompanied by a padlock icon in the address bar. However, not all 'HTTPS' sites are safe, as some malicious sites also use encryption to appear legitimate, so this is just the starting point for verifying security.
Validating security certificates
A security certificate is a stamp of authenticity that confirms and verifies a website's identity and that it uses appropriate mechanisms to keep the flow of information from you to it safe. This is commonly known as encryption. You can view a website's certificate by clicking on the padlock icon in the address bar. A valid certificate should be issued by a recognized authority, state the correct website name, and be current, not expired. Certificates are important because they indicate that a site is what it claims to be, belongs to who you expect it to belong to and that your data will be encrypted.
Safe payment practices
When it comes to making payments, ensure that the website uses a secure payment gateway. You can look for signs like a payment URL that begins with 'HTTPS' or the presence of trusted third-party payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, or Square or Payfast. Use credit cards when possible, as they often offer better fraud protection than debit cards. Be wary of sites that only accept EFT’s or wire transfers, as these payment methods offer less recourse for you in the event of a sales transaction that goes wrong.
Account safety measures
Creating a strong password for your online shopping accounts can significantly enhance security. Never use the same password that you use for other accounts, as a breach on one site can lead to a breach on another. Many sites now offer two-factor authentication (2FA), which adds an extra layer of security. Always opt-in for this feature where available, as it requires a second form of verification beyond your password, often a code sent to your phone. To learn more about good password use, take a look at our simple tips for strong passwords article.
Maintaining privacy and vigilance
Keep your personal information private. Only provide the necessary details required for your purchase and nothing more. Be cautious of shopping websites that ask for information that a retail outlet wouldn't normally need, like your ID number of social security number. After completing a purchase, always log out of your account, especially if you're using a public computer or network. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unauthorised charges. One guilty party to be aware of in this regard is Uber Eats. If you use Uber Eats be especially vigilant about your bank account as it has been our experience that a number of individuals have found their card details being used in other places on Uber Eats.
Stay informed, shop assured, and secure your peace of mind
With the rise in e-commerce also comes the increase of cyber threats. But by following the steps outlined above, you can shop online with confidence. Remember, the best shopper is an informed one. Security is a shared responsibility—while merchants must secure their sites, you as the customer should also practise due diligence. So, the next time you find that perfect item online, make sure you take a moment to verify the website and protect your information.