There's every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind-boggling. The shopping is secure. Shipping is fast. Even returns are easy, with the right e-tailers. Shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers.
But what about the bad guys who lay in wait? It happens. The FBI's own Internet Crime Complaint Center says the number one cybercrime of 2017 was related to online shopping: non-payment for or non-deliver of goods purchased. Phishing was third, but it was at an all-time high during Q2 2018, according to the APWG's Phishing Activity Trends Report.
A recent survey asked if people had experienced a cyber attack like malware, credit card fraud, or ransomware—a full 25 percent said they had.
Stay calm. While somewhat alarming, these stats should not keep you from shopping online. You simply need to use some common sense and follow practical advice. Here are basic guidelines; use them and you can buy and sell online with confidence.
- Use Our Secured Escrow Service
As mentioned earlier, the number one cyber crime of 2017 was related to online shopping: non-payment for or non-deliver of goods purchased. This puts both online buyers and sellers on a high level of risk. But since most of us cannot do without buying something online, the sure path to safety is obviously to use a reliable escrow service like FeliScrow.com for all of your online purchases and sales.
Services like FELISCROW completely eliminates the risk of online frauds by acting as a trusted third-party that collects, holds and only disburses funds when both Buyers and Sellers are satisfied.
- Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You'll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS—instead of just HTTP. An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically to the left of the URL in the address bar or the status bar down below; it depends on your browser.
HTTPS is pretty standard now even on non-shopping sites, enough that Google Chrome flags any page without the extra S as "not secure." So a site without it should stand out even more.
- Don't Overshare
No online shopping e-tailer needs your Social Security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them and your credit card number, they can do a lot of damage. The more scammers know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up as little personal data as possible. Even major sites get breached.
- Check Statements Regularly
Don't wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Look for any fraudulent charges, even originating payments from your banker. (After all, there's more than one way to get to your money.)
Speaking of, you should definitely only buy online with a credit card. If your debit card is compromised, scammers have direct access to your bank funds. Any seller that wants a different kind of payment, like wired money, is a big red flag. The Fair Credit Billing Act ensures that if you get scammed, you are only responsible for up to $50 (around N17,000) of charges you didn't authorize. There are protections even if you're not happy with a purchase you did make.
If you see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only when you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
- Inoculate Your Computer
Swindlers don't sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your antivirus program.
Better yet, pay for a full-blown security suite, which will have antivirus software, but also will fight spam, spear-phishing emails, and phishing attacks from websites (the latter two try and still your personal info by mimicking a message or site that looks legit).
- Avoid Public Terminals
What about using your own laptop to shop while you're out? It's one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you have to enter the credit card number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you're giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door. And use sites that you trust that already have your credit card stored, so you don't have to pull it out for more than a latte.
WARNING: NEVER buy or sell anything online without using an escrow service. Create your FREE Escrow account now.