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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:

Make sure the site is secure

Vodacom is an example of a safe site for online shopping

It’s relatively easy to set up an online store nowadays, so be sure you’re using a trusted, established site. 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 then fails to deliver. Check reviews and make sure their reputation shows that they do fulfil orders.

You’ll also want to look out for the 3D Secure standard. This was created by Visa and Mastercard as an added security measure. It protects your credit card from unauthorised use when shopping online. If the site has this option, a one-time pin (OTP) will be sent to your cell phone or email address. You must enter this pin on the website before the payment will be authorised.

Ready to shop? You can do so safely and securely on Shop the latest deals now.

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