Many South Africans have discovered the convenience of online shopping. However, there are certain risks when it comes to shopping online. You don’t want your credit card details stolen, for example, nor do you want to waste your money on items that never arrive.
So how do you protect yourself while shopping online? Here are a few tips and guidelines:
Use trusted, established sites
It’s relatively easy to set up an online store nowadays. While this means that consumers have more choice, it also means that dodgy and untrustworthy suppliers can sell their goods online.
You should generally stay away from sites no one you know has tried and sites that don’t have an online profile on social media. A good way to check a company’s reputation is to monitor their page and reviews on Facebook. Look at their posts to see whether comments are mostly complaints about their service. Keep in mind that a lot of low-quality and unreliable retailers can also advertise online, so it’s best to double check their reliability through other means. When in doubt, ask your friends and family if they have tried a certain site. You can even ask around on your social media profiles.
Make sure the site is secure
Any site that requires you to put in personal details or payment details needs to be secure. It is relatively easy to check this, thanks to tools built into internet browsers.
First, check whether a site’s URL starts with “https” as opposed to “http” or “www”. This is a bare minimum level of security and if a site doesn’t have it on pages where you’re requested to enter your details, stay away from it. Sites without “https” don’t use encryption to protect the information you send, meaning that it can easily be intercepted by cybercriminals.
Then, there is the site’s security certificate. If it has expired, even though the site may once have been secure, its security can no longer be verified by authorities. Security certificates also verify the identity of the site’s owner. You can check whether a site’s certificate has expired, along with other security flaws, by looking for the padlock icon on your browser to the left of the site’s URL. Firefox and Chrome both use this icon to show whether a site is secure. If it is not secure, the padlock will not be there. Chrome also includes text that says “not secure”. Never send personal or sensitive information through sites like this.
Check what security is used for payments
Websites that process payments will specify the service through which they authenticate and send these payments. Usually, this information is available at the bottom of the website, in the site’s footer.
You will want to check that the site uses security certificates from established authorities such as Thawte, Verisign or GoDaddy. Otherwise, you should check whether it uses secure payment providers such as i-PAY, PayFast, Masterpass, Mastercard or Visa.
Sites that lack these services may request that you send an EFT with a reference number. This doesn't require you to provide details such as card numbers. Rather, the retailer provides you with their banking details. This is especially common for shops hosted on Facebook. In these cases, you will want to ensure that the retailer is trusted and doesn't take your money and run. Check reviews and make sure their reputation shows that they do fulfil orders.
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