With more and more online sales on major e-commerce platforms and shopping websites these days, it’s increasingly important to guard our credit card and banking information using tools like VPNs and a basic knowledge of internet security. If you’re a frequent online shopping enthusiast – or you can’t resist the allure of a monthly double-digit sale! – here are seven online shopping safety tips, as recommended by the internet security experts at NordVPN.
#1 Shop only on HTTPS websites
One of the most basic ways to ensure that your online shopping experience is safe is to ensure that the online store you’re visiting is a HTTPS website. This means that your banking details are protected by some level of encryption. This isn’t necessarily completely secure, but it shows the website administrators are savvy enough to take basic precautions. Checking this is simple – look at the website’s full url to see if it begins with “https://” (just like our website!).
#2 Make sure you’re visiting a legitimate online shopping website
Another easy way to ensure that your bank details are safe is to simply double check the website URL in your address bar. Official websites are likely to have URLs that look like this: www.officialwebsite.com. In order to trick online shoppers, you might see similar looking URLs that aren’t quite right: www.0fficialwebsite1.com. Always double check the website before entering any sensitive information like credit card details.
#3 Keep an eye out for shortened URLs when shopping online
URL shorteners are frequently used on platforms like Facebook and Instagram because they make long URLs full of tracking codes less unsightly. Scammers can use these shortened URLs to mask links to fraudulent websites that can steal your information. Found a great online sale on Facebook or Instagram? Instead of clicking on the link on a post or ad, try visiting the brand’s official website. You’re likely to find the same deal on the official website. If you can’t spot a similar deal, it’s a good chance that the ad was fraudulent.
#4 Be wary of phishing emails
Take a look in your email spam folder and you’ll probably find dozens of phishing emails. It’s easy to dismiss them because they often are incredibly obvious scams – like the classic one involving foreign royalty promising you millions! Phishing emails today have become much more sophisticated, and even internet savvy people can fall prey to them. These emails often have links to very convincing fake websites meant to mimic legitimate banking, government and shopping websites. They also offer remarkable offers to entice people to click the link.
#5 Avoid online shopping when connected to public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is the perfect hunting ground for hackers because it’s so widely available. It’s also very popular among people working remotely or browsing the internet while outside the home. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi networks have very poor security and can provide an avenue for hackers to infiltrate your computers and devices.
If you have to use public Wi-Fi while shopping, a VPN is essential to keep your banking details secure. VPNs encrypt your connection, meaning any information a hacker might obtain will be almost impossible to decipher.
#6 Monitor your card statements
When’s the last time you checked your credit card statement? Sure it can be a chore, but dishonest businesses may sometimes add hidden charges or subscriptions to your purchase. A lot of ‘free trials’ require credit card details and automatically subscribe you unless you cancel recurring bills. It’s also important to check your statements to see if any unauthorised transactions have taken place. Sometimes these nefarious transactions may be small, but if they recur, you can wind up losing a lot of money. If most of your banking is done on an app, turn on push notifications that trigger whenever you make an online purchase.
Fraudulent transactions are a sign that your card and payment details might be compromised; if it happens, contact your bank immediately to contest the charge and cancel the card.
#7 Use a trusted VPN!
One of the most secure ways to protect your data while shopping online is to use a VPN service. Among other things, a VPN encrypts data exchanged between your device and a legitimate online shopping website. Because the data is encrypted, even if the information is intercepted by a hacker, they will be unable to decipher it.
VPN subscription plans are also very affordable these days. A two-year subscription with NordVPN will set you back just $79 ($3.29 a month) and keep you safe while you shop online. This deal is available until 10 January 2022.
For more information on NordVPN, click here.
Written in collaboration with NordVPN.
Want to learn more about online safety? Here are some other reasons why a VPN is a great way to protect your online privacy.