Safety tips for online shopping

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Online shopping may be a wonderful way to avoid year-end mall madness, but there are certain risks that come with the territory, especially if you’re new to the game. Here are some safety guidelines to follow.

Use reputable companies
Online stores that have been around long enough to build up a solid reputation and a database of satisfied customers are always a good bet when you’re shopping online. And according to the 2017 MyBroadband Online Shopping Survey, these include well-known names like Takealot, Superbalist, Loot, Makro, Yuppiechef, Woolworths and Pick n Pay. If, however, you’ve found a product or the perfect gift on a site you’re not familiar with, and you’re having reservations about whether or not to order from them, ask a friend or family member if they know the company or try Googling it (include the word ‘scam’ in your search) and see what comes up.

Do your shopping at home
While one of the benefits of online shopping is that you can do it from anywhere and at any time, bear in mind that using a public Wi-Fi connection isn’t necessarily secure. What’s more, if you’re using a shared computer in a public space, there’s a chance it may be infected with spyware. What is spyware? According to Norton, a company that develops and distributes antivirus software, “Spyware is classified as a type of malware — malicious software designed to gain access to or damage your computer, often without your knowledge. Spyware is used for many purposes. Usually it aims to track and sell your internet usage data, capture your credit card or bank account information, or steal your personal identity.” In other words, ALWAYS do your online shopping at home.

Be security-savvy
Security should be your top priority when you’re shopping online and there are several measures you can implement (besides regularly updated antivirus software) to keep your information safe.

1. Look for 2-step verification
Any reputable shopping site will take you through a two-layer authentication process that requires you to enter your unique combination of username and password and then submit a one-time PIN (OTP) – you will typically receive this via your cellphone – in order to confirm the payment.

2. Always use strong passwords
This type of password includes uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. While strong passwords must be at least six characters long, the more you add, the stronger yours will be.

3. Look for the right signs
If you want to be certain about the security of the site you’re shopping on, look out for the padlock icon and make sure that the URL begins with https:// rather than http://.

Check your bank statements regularly
No matter how careful you’ve been to follow the correct online shopping protocol, it’s always best to play it as safe as possible by checking your bank statements each month. If you do spot a suspicious transaction on your account, contact your bank immediately.