Over the past few years, there’s been a massive shift towards more and more people shopping online, and even people who had previously resisted the temptation to purchase goods and services online are now tending to give e-commerce a try for the first time and see what all the fuss is about.
Although this trend was set to continue and even accelerate in the coming months and years, the recent developments regarding COVID-19 have meant that there is currently a huge spike of consumers who are trying online shopping for the first time – now of course often out of necessity rather than choice!
With this in mind, we felt compelled to produce this blog to try and help people who may still be a little confused and intimidated by the online purchasing experience, and try and provide some helpful and valuable advice and guidance regarding shopping online that you can use to keep yourself safe and secure at all times.
We hope that you can use this blog to give you more confidence and assurance about taking your first steps into buying products and goods online, and it’s something that you can keep referring back to as you surf the internet and find products that take your fancy and you feel compelled to add to your virtual shopping bag!
So without further ado let’s jump right in and get started – read through the following chapters to learn the key essentials to enable you to shop safely online and ensure the experience is a smooth and enjoyable one without any major issues. Happy online shopping!
Tip #1 – Create complex passwords
One of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe and secure online is to ensure that you only create and use highly secure passwords. This ensures that it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) for anyone else to guess your password or figure it out through some kind of hacking your personal details and information.
You might be tempted to use passwords that are easy to remember or have some obvious link and trigger to something relevant to you such as a name or place, but we recommend using a unique password generator to create complex and random passwords that contain a range of various types of characters. These will be the most difficult for anyone else to guess or figure out – giving you maximum security when shopping online.
One such tool can be found at Secure Password Generator, which is an easy to use and completely free tool that can generate a very complex password for you. Be sure to be careful where you store these passwords once they are created though – it’s not a good idea to store them all together in some kind of digital document online.
Perhaps try writing them down somewhere safe so that if someone does manage to access your account online there’s no way that they can gain access to this private password information.
Tip #2 – Beware of non HTTPS sites
In this day and age, you must ensure that any websites that you are considering making an online purchase on, have the relevant security in place to protect your personal details and information and ensure that the transaction is secure.
Any website that is selling products and requires personal information such as payment card details to be entered, should have HTTPS status, meaning that the security of the site has been upgraded to handle this kind of sensitive information. Look for the little padlock logo in the URL of the website you are viewing products on (as illustrated in the image directly above and be careful not to attempt to purchase anything from any site where you do not see this symbol. Sometimes you’ll be able to view the entire URL of the website, it should start with https:// rather than http:// – this again indicates the higher level of security on the site that every reputable and trustworthy e-commerce store should always have.
Tip #3 – Beware of Unsolicited Clickable Links
One key thing to be aware of if you are accessing the internet and looking to purchase goods online is any unsolicited clickable links that might pop up or appear on the page in front of you.
Obviously, these need to be approached with caution at any time, but once you start purchasing online and entering payment details and other personal information on websites, then it pays to be even more aware of this and ensure that you don’t enter any personal details into any kind of form that’s not an integral part of the sites they you’re accessing.
Hackers and spammers can use various methods of attempting to glean personal details from unsuspecting members of the public using these kinds of techniques, but the golden rule is that if any kind of form appears that doesn’t seem to be part of the site you are on and asks for personal information (especially things like payment information and dates of birth, etc), then don’t enter anything unless you are sure you can trust it.
The main thing to be aware of is that reputable sites will only ever ask you for details and information that is relevant and proportionate to what they claim to be asking you to do. So for example, if you enter a website and they ask you for an email address so they can send you offers, discounts, and news updates, then that would usually be fine. But if you access what is essentially an e-commerce website selling common fashion or household goods, and suddenly you are being warned of imminent virus threats to your computer – then it’s probably a dodgy link and you should close down the offending form or link immediately without entering any details.
Tip #4 – Take extra care on your mobile
If you’re like most people these days, a good deal of your time online will be through a mobile device, so it’s good to be aware of the fact that mobile devices require the same amount of care and consideration as traditional desktop devices when browsing products and shopping online.
In fact, mobile devices can present their own unique problems when it comes to online security, such as risky mobile apps and untrustworthy messages sent by text message and via messaging mediums such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Again, proceed with the same level of care and consideration when using a mobile device as you would with any other type of device.
Tip #5 – Keep your software up to date
No matter what device you are using to browse the internet and search for products online, it will inevitably have a range of software installed, some of which will be responsible for helping you to keep as safe and secure as possible online.
Another thing you should do to remain as secure as possible is to ensure that all your software is updated as soon as a new version becomes available, in many instances you’ll receive a notification on your device when a particular update is available. Be sure to perform this update promptly, as it might contain protection against some new threats that have been identified which the current version of the software is not adequately equipped to deal with.
With most modern software, you can turn on automatic updates so that it gets updated in the background as soon as an important update becomes available – it might be a good idea to turn this on so that you don’t even have to think about it. This can all help to keep you as safe and secure online as possible all of the time, with the minimum of hassle or disruption.
Tip #6 – Backup regularly
Another thing that can help to keep you as secure as possible online is making sure to perform regular backups of everything on your devices. This means that if your devices and the systems and files on them become corrupted or infected with some kind of virus or untrustworthy download or program, you’ll be able to roll back changes and updates to your system and hopefully return it to the exact state it was in before the problem arose.
These days it’s quicker and easier than ever to perform these kinds of system updates, as modern operating systems across all common devices have full backup functionality baked right into them, and you can typically run the backup in just a few clicks or even set automatic updates to occur so it will all be done without you even having to remember to do anything.
If you’re at all unsure about this kind of regular backing up, then you can find plenty of useful help and advice online about how it’s done, it’s one of the most fundamental ways that you can stay as secure as possible online, so it’s something that has been widely covered with many articles and videos on the subject readily available for you to consume and learn from.
Tip #7 – Use a secure internet connection
If you are making purchases and transactions online, then you must ensure that you do so over a secure and private internet connection, rather than a public connection that may not have optimum levels of privacy and security.
As you will be entering private information such as your personal details and credit or debit card details, then you don’t want to be using a public computer that another random member of the public can come along and use after you – try and stick to your own personal device that only you and friends and family that you know and trust use.
This is because the information packets transmitted over public connections can be captured easily by hackers and cybercriminals, so these public connections often simply don’t have the same levels of security that you have when shopping online using your own private devices.
Tip #8 – Look for online reviews
One of the most valuable and useful resources that you can use to ensure that you can trust an online retailer are reviews of both the company themselves and the individual products that they sell.
There are several trusted review services and websites with Trustpilot being one of the main leaders in the field. If you have any doubts about purchasing products online from a specific retailer then look on their website and other online channels for reviews from previous customers that have bought from them.
This should provide you with adequate evidence as to whether they are a trusted place to purchase goods online and give you valuable information on the overall quality of the products and other important factors such as their delivery and dispatch times once a product is ordered.
Most trusted and established retailers will have multiple reviews not just on their website but also on channels such as their Facebook Page, as happy and satisfied customers who have purchased from them feel compelled to leave feedback that both the company and other future buyers can read and use to evaluate the company.
Be sure to use these reviews to set your mind at rest that the online retailers you are looking to purchase from are going to be reputable and provide the kind of service that you would expect.
Tip #9 – Review Privacy & Returns Policies
Along much the same lines as the previous point, another way that you can establish trust and credibility in an online provider and help to keep yourself safe and secure when buying online is to check the websites of online retailers for Privacy and Returns Policies.
These are dedicated pages on online retailers’ websites that set out ways in which they protect your personal and private information, and also what their rules and protocols are for dealing with returns and/or issues with the products that you purchase online from them.
Some less credible online retailers might not have these dedicated pages present on their websites, or if they do they may be lacking basic information or have no real detail to them which might be indications that something is amiss.
This kind of content on the website should all help to put your mind at rest that a specific website is a safe and secure place in which to enter your personal information and payment details, so be sure to look out for it as you take your first steps on the road to becoming a seasoned online buyer!
Tip #10 – Beware of dropshipping sites
One overarching theme for shopping online safely and securely is that generally, as with most things in life, if something sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is!
One of the key things to be aware of in this area is the growing rise of dropshipping e-commerce retailers and websites, that sell products in one country but then ship them from a third-party retailer in another country where the products are manufactured and stored, mostly typically China, Hong Kong or a similar country.
Whilst these kinds of online retailers have their time and place, typically the products are often of poor quality and the delivery times can be anything up to several weeks – obviously far from ideal if you require a purchased product within a set timeframe and did not realize that the online retailer is using the dropshipping model. Of course, the problem can also be compounded by the fact that you can face significant difficulties if you need to return the product(s) and they have been sent from an overseas country with huge delays in transit and sometimes questionable practices and protocols on how they handle returns back to the place of manufacture.
Dropshipping retailers are sometimes not always as transparent and open about their delivery times and returns policies as they might be, so if you are uncertain, then check carefully on the website for confirmation of the online retailers’ delivery times and returns policy. If you are still then unsure, it’s probably best to avoid purchasing on that site and source your products from another retailer instead.
We hope that you’ve found the tips we have provided in this blog useful and informative and can put them to good use keeping yourself safe and secure online from any potential problems that you might face when purchasing products and goods on e-commerce stores. If you follow the advice highlighted above and also employ a good amount of common sense whilst looking to purchase products online, then you should find that you have no major problems or issues and the experience is a highly positive one.
There are so many exciting new products and goods available to purchase online now from a vast array of diverse retailers both big and small, so this is a great time to take your first step if you have not done so already, into e-commerce and start experiencing the joys of shopping online.
We hope that getting stuck in during these testing times and exploring all the various options that are available to you through online shopping, will open up a whole new world of exciting goods that you may never have had access to otherwise.
So start experimenting and having a good look around to see what’s out there, ensuring of course to follow our advice and guidance as you go.
Good luck on your new shopping adventure and we’re confident that once you get into the swing of things, you’ll be using online shopping all the time to find unique and diverse products that you truly love!