The internet is the biggest marketplace we’ve ever known. You can find and purchase anything you can imagine and have it shipped right to your doorstep from any part of the world.
There are countless reputable e-shopping websites and just as many ways to pay them. Many people start getting iffy when they’re about to input sensitive information like their credit card details. They start conjuring up scenarios of fraud and phishing scams — any in some cases they wouldn’t be wrong.
But there is a way to stay safe when making payments online.
Being able to recognise all the right signs of a safe and trustworthy website compared to a risky one is the first step.
How do you recognise a safe website?
There are four signs that can reassure you that the website you’re browsing is safe.
1) The connection is secure. You want to be certain that your data stays safe both when you are receiving it from the website’s servers and when you’re sending it to them. All you need to do to know whether the website you’re using has a secure connection or not is to read the website address.
The web address of a secure site should begin with ‘https://’, where the extra ‘s’ stands for secure. This tiny detail means that when your data is being protected with an extra layer of security called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which encrypts data in a format that makes it very difficult for hackers to read it without proper authorisation.
2) Green means you’re good to go. Moreover, if you’re using the latest version of your internet browser, the ‘https://’ part of the address (or the whole address — depending on your browser application) will turn green. This makes it even easier for you to identity a website that uses the safer SSL connection.
3) A tiny padlock makes a world of difference. When browsing on a reputable website that uses security features to make your experience safer, you should notice that an icon of a tiny padlock appears on the screen.
Depending on the browser you’re using, the padlock could appear in the address bar or at the bottom of the window in the status bar. It is important that you’re familiar with the browser application you’re using and that you know where of find the padlock icon.
4) You’re at the right address. Make sure you check carefully that the address you typed is the same one that appears on the screen and that you haven’t made any mistakes when typing the address in. A common tactic fraudsters use is pharming, where websites with very similar names to other reputable ones are created to trick people into sharing personal information by making them believing they’re on a trustworthy website.
Good habits to stay safe online
Apart form the all the hints that your browser gives you that you’re browsing a secure website, there are certain small actions you can take to protect yourself better when buying stuff online.
- Before going online, make sure that you have a good antivirus/anti-spyware program that is updated regularly to protect you against the latest threats.
- Choose strong passwords for your e-banking and e-shopping accounts.
- Read carefully through the information that you are being requested to input before purchasing an item. Be wary of websites that ask for too many details or for information (see identity theft) that seems unnecessary for your current transaction.
- If you’re unfamiliar with the website you’re using try to ask the opinion of friends who have used it before or find reviews online.
- Always keep a saved copy of online payment receipts. You might also want to print them out and keep them in a folder.
- Double-check details before you click ‘Submit’. Make sure no extra charges where debited and that the amount on screen checks out with what you were prepared to pay.
- Check credit card and bank statements carefully after making online transaction to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place.
- When making a payment to an individual use a secure payment site such as PayPal instead to transferring the money directly into their bank account from your account.
Secure payment methods
There are many online services that help you make online payments more secure. With services like PayPal you will only have to type in your credit card details once.
Whenever you want to buy something from websites that accept PayPal, all you have to do is type in your PayPal username and password to affect payment. This not only saves you money, but also cuts down on risks by avoiding having to share your credit card details with many websites.
PayPal offers a secure connection on whichever website you’re using to make online payments and it also provides you with purchase protection on selected items to protect you in case of fraud or if a product you ordered never arrived.
When using online secure payment services, your transactions will be easier to monitor and if any suspicious activity is noticed, the service support team can help protect you from fraudulent transactions. If a transaction doesn’t go as planned, or you’re worried about anything at all, like fraud or phishing, it’s also possible for you to report issues and get the advice you need.