Below, you’ll find our top 10 tips when it comes to online shopping safety.
- Only shop with websites you know and trust.
- Check for the padlock in the URL bar, which evidences a secure website.
- Routinely check your bank statements for unknown transactions.
- Install and use a password manager.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks unless you’re using a VPN.
- Leave your card in your wallet, and pay using mobile payments.
- Use a credit card for greater protection.
- Transfer money to an empty account with a linked debit card for your purchases.
- Avoid deals that seem “too good to be true“.
- Use a VPN to shop online safely and get discounts on your subscriptions!
Shopping online is faster and more convenient than ever. Unfortunately, where there’s a fast flow of cash, there’ll inevitably be people looking to steal it. That’s why we’ve rounded up 10 tips for online shopping safety. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to secure your computer and smartphone, protect your card details, and even save money online.
Shopping Online Safely: 10 Tips to Keep Your Data Secure
Hopefully, you’ll already be familiar with some of these online safety tips, like not clicking on suspicious links or downloading email attachments from unknown sources. However, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to shopping online securely and keeping your details safe. Below, we’ll tell you all about why you should avoid public Wi-Fi, install a password manager, and switch to mobile or credit card payments.
1. Stick to the beaten path
You should always stick to tried and trusted websites when you’re shopping online. Reputable websites won’t be out to steal your payment details, plus they’ll typically have stringent security protocols. If you’re hunting down a niche deal and find a website through Google or another search engine, you should still be on your guard. Trustpilot is a handy resource for vetting unfamiliar websites or businesses and checking if a website is safe to buy from, but be sure to exercise caution.
That said, there are other ways to compromise your online privacy. Simply visiting a website might be enough to give away certain information about you. And even the biggest names in retail tend to collect your data as you shop. Recently, we did some digging to find out just how much personal data websites like Amazon gather.
2. Make sure there’s a padlock in the URL bar
One thing you’ll want to look out for is a valid security certificate. If the website URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP and has a padlock beside the name, that means that the security certificate is valid.
You should never put your payment details into a website that doesn’t have a valid SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This security measure is standard for all trusted websites, and search engines will commonly flag a website as unsecured if the certificate is missing or expired.
3. Get into the habit of checking your bank statements
Everyone’s different when it comes to monitoring their spending. Some people check their banking app first thing every morning, while others might not log in more than once per week. However, if you get into the habit of checking your bank statements, you’ll spot inconsistencies far sooner.
Don’t recognize a transaction? Make sure you get in touch with your bank as soon as possible. To be as safe as possible, use the telephone number that’s listed on the back of your debit or credit card.
4. Use a password manager
Using a password manager could help you both remember and protect your passwords at the same time. What does a password manager do? Just as it says on the tin, a password manager literally manages and stores all of your passwords. It can also help you to create new, highly secure passwords in the future.
With a password manager, you’ll no longer have to remember all of your various usernames and passwords (and we really hope you’re not using the same one for everything!). This means that you won’t have Post-Its or word documents lying around with all of your sensitive data. What’s more, some password managers can automatically input your login details. If you ever fall victim to keylogger software – malicious software that records your keyboard input, a password manager could save your life.
5. Don’t do online shopping on public Wi-Fi networks
You might want to think twice about using a public Wi-Fi network when shopping online. First, you’ve got the risk of an over-the-shoulder snoop watching as you enter your card details. However, somebody could steal your card details without even setting foot in the door. Hackers with enough skill can target nearby, unsecured networks and siphon off data that includes your payment information.
And therein lies the issue with public Wi-Fi networks. They’re pretty dangerous, especially when they lack any password protection or other kinds of authentication and security (which most do). You could fall victim to identity fraud, packet sniffing, and man-in-the-middle attacks, among other risks. You can read more about these dangers in our full article on the dangers of public Wi-Fi.
6. Use mobile payments instead of your card
Many of us have ditched our debit cards altogether. Recent research indicates that up to 79% of adults have their smartphones nearby for 22 hours per day. With Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay installed, you can largely reduce the risk of having your payment details stolen. However, bear in mind that there have been a handful of instances where hackers have managed to exploit mobile payments.
7. Consider using a credit card
If you have access to a credit card, it’s better to avoid debit card purchases for shopping online securely – particularly when it’s a high-value item. In the US, your liability is limited to just $50 for any unauthorized charges that might arise if your card details are compromised. In the UK, there’s something known as “Section 75” in the country’s consumer credit law. Under this law, you’ll usually be able to claim your money back if your card was stolen. It could even see you refunded for big purchases like holidays that don’t go ahead.
8. Pay with another card
If you don’t have access to a credit card or a modern phone, you could still avoid using your debit card by opening a new bank account via online banking. If you’re eligible to open an account, providers like Monzo or Revolut make things super easy for you with online-only banking and slick user apps.
Once you’re set-up, you can simply make an instant bank transfer from your central bank account to your new account for the amount of the item you want to purchase. This way, even if your card details are compromised, there’ll be nothing in the account for a hacker to steal.
9. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
There are plenty of deals to be found online, but this age-old adage is still very much true when you’re shopping online. If a price appears too good to be true, then it could be a knock-off. Alternatively, you could part with your cash and never see the item land on your doorstep at all!
10. Use a VPN to shop online securely
A lot of the risks above can be reduced by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address is anonymized. If you’re not hiding your IP, people online can potentially see your location and even your browsing activity. In addition to changing your IP address, a VPN also routes your internet traffic through a secure server, which encrypts your data and keeps it safe from prying eyes.
This is why a VPN is the best way to keep your data secure while shopping online. We’ve saved the best until last, as using a VPN negates or at least minimizes some of the risks outlined above. For example, if you use a VPN on public Wi-Fi, you’ll be much safer than logging in without one. While the network itself won’t be any more secure, since all your data is encrypted, you’ll be better protected against would-be hackers.
There are several important cybersecurity tools that you should consider using for maximum protection online as well.
How to Install a VPN and Improve Online Shopping Safety
By using a VPN to shop safely online, you’ll have far better anonymity and security when snagging those deals. However, you will have to be selective about which VPN server to choose. Due to regional website restrictions and software that detects your location, you’ll probably want to choose a VPN server in your own country. The only exception is when you’re trying to score regional discounts in another country, but we’ll get onto that in a moment.
First, let’s start by looking at how to shop online securely with a VPN. It’ll only take you a few moments to get started, and it won’t change anything about your monthly payday splurge:
How to shop online securely with a VPN: Step-by-step guide
- First, you need to choose a VPN and create an account. ExpressVPN is our best VPN for shopping online, as you benefit from the biggest choice of VPN server locations worldwide. There’s more on this below.
- Once you’ve chosen a VPN, download the VPN client and install the software. ExpressVPN has a sleek mobile app too, as do many of the best VPNs.
- Now, run the VPN software and sign in to your account.
- Using the VPN client, choose a VPN server to connect to. Remember, for regular online shopping on your own turf, you need to choose a VPN server in your country. If you don’t, you might find that some of your usual websites are inaccessible.
- Now you’ve connected to a VPN, you’ll enjoy much greater online security while shopping!
How to save money on subscriptions with a VPN
That’s right, you can even save money online by using a VPN to do your shopping. You can potentially save on everything from subscriptions to flight and hotel bookings. Check out our article on how to save money on subscriptions with a VPN. It’s entirely possible to save more than the cost of your VPN subscription!
Online Shopping Safety Tools for Desktop and Mobile
Using a VPN is a great way to improve your online security, but you could take things more seriously with other online safety tools. For example, Blur is a Passwords, Payments & Privacy suite that you can use on both your computer and your phone. With Blur, you can create a throwaway burner card for every single purchase as a mask for your real credit card details. Like password managers, Blur can also manage and suggest passwords, and you can also mask your email address. Blur can also auto-fill forms that contain information you routinely enter online, and it’ll block hidden trackers and ads.
As the whole world moves online, online shopping safety is more important than ever before. Fortunately, you can avoid most scams and dangerous situations by using a little common sense and securing your connection with a VPN. With a VPN connection, your IP, and thus your location, are hidden. You’ll also be safer on public Wi-Fi networks when you’re grabbing a coffee and surfing for deals. For everything else, be careful of where you type your card details and consider using a credit card or mobile phone to check out.
Check out our most frequently asked questions on online shopping safety below.
Here’s a condensed version of our top 10 tips for online shopping safety. For the full list and more information, see our full article.
- Stick to the beaten path with known, trusted websites
- Make sure there’s a padlock (security certificate) in the URL bar
- Get into the habit of checking your bank statements
- Use a password manager
- Don’t do online shopping on public Wi-Fi networks
- Use mobile payments instead of your card
- Consider using a credit card
- Pay with another card from a separate account
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
- 10. Use a VPN to shop online securely
Using a VPN to do your online shopping can reduce the risk of you falling victim to identity fraud and other scams. Since a VPN anonymizes your IP and therefore your location, as well as encrypting your data, you’ll be better protected against malicious strangers online. As long as you connect to a VPN server in your country, you won’t even notice the difference in your day-to-day browsing. What’s more, you can even save money on subscriptions and other online purchases with a VPN!
Yes, using a VPN for purchases is safe; you won’t be at any more risk when making payments online. In fact, you’ll be safer using a VPN because your internet traffic will be encrypted. This means it’s harder for other people to intercept and read the information that you’ve entered online.