Ever ordered a parcel that never arrived? Found strange things on your credit card statement after an online purchase? Had a parcel swiped from your doorstep?
It’s not a good feeling.
By now, most people are familiar with the basic do’s and don’ts of online ordering (at least 79% of American consumers shop online every year). But that hasn’t stopped dishonest characters from raking in millions from unsuspecting consumers.
There are many risks associated with buying things online, from identity theft to credit card fraud. But a few simple precautions can minimize the chance your purchase will lead to disappointment. Follow these tips for safe online shopping.
How to Shop Online Safely
Below, we’ll discuss the following do’s and don’ts of ordering online:
- Make sure the site is legit.
- Check the site’s security certificate.
- Save proof of purchase.
- Watch for additional costs.
- Read the return policy.
- Look for real customer feedback.
- Give more information than you need to.
- Make online purchases on an insecure connection.
- Use the same password across sites.
- Forget to arrange safe parcel delivery.
1. Make Sure the Site is Legit
In a best-case scenario, you’ll be ordering online from a familiar website you trust. But there are cases where you can only find what you need from a smaller, niche site. What then?
Do your due diligence to ensure a site is trustworthy and legitimate before you buy from it. Ask yourself:
- Does it look professionally designed, with proper grammar and spelling (even if it is a bit outdated)?
- Is the site complete?
- Do the links still work?
- Does the company have an address and phone number listed?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider it a red flag. Consider Googling the name of the site along with words like “fraud” and “scam” to see if anyone has warned against using it.
2. Check the Site’s Security Certificate
In 2018, SSL encryption is the bare minimum any reputable online store should have for security.
This encryption guards your credit card information and other personal details when you make a purchase.
You can tell if a site has SSL encryption by looking at the URL. A secure site will have an HTTPS signature rather than HTTP, and a green padlock icon next to it.
Be mindful that this measure doesn’t automatically mean a site is trustworthy — it just means the site is secure! Encryption or no encryption, don’t forget to check the site’s credibility.
3. Save Proof of Purchase
If you do make a purchase, don’t close the confirmation page until you have proof saved to your device.
Most online stores will send a receipt by email. Save a copy for your records. If you don’t get a receipt, save a screenshot of the confirmation page.
4. Watch for Additional Costs
There are shipping fees, of course, but that might not be the end of the story. When you order from a store outside the country, you may have to pay duty fees or import taxes in addition to the point of sale price.
Look for online duty calculators to help you anticipate any additional costs on your purchase.
5. Read the Return Policy
What happens if the shoes don’t fit? What if they come in the wrong colour? What if, for whatever reason, they never land on your doorstep in the first place?
Know the store’s return policy before you order anything online, especially for clothing and other items that might not work out as you expected.
6. Look for Real Customer Feedback
By real feedback, we don’t mean customer testimonials on the website. Honest customer reviews can tell you more about a store and its products than just about any other source.
If there’s no central source for reviews on the particular product you’re buying, look for mentions of the brand on web forums and social media sites.
7. Don’t Provide More Information Than Necessary
There is definitely such thing as Too Much Information when it comes to ordering online. There’s no reason why a company should demand more than your name, email address or phone number, shipping address, and billing information.
Be wary of companies that want more, or who ask for information before you’ve entered the checkout process.
8. Avoid Making Purchases on Insecure Connections
You’d be shocked how easy can be to intercept data on an insecure public Wi-Fi network. Hotspots are not a good place to be entering your credit card or banking information. If you must make a purchase in public, opt for your mobile data connection instead of a public connection.
9. Never Use the Same Password Twice
E-commerce sites are common targets for hackers. Using the same password for your accounts across multiple online stores is a huge risk.
Sick of remembering all your different passwords? Use a free password manager to keep them safe.
10. Don’t Forget to Arrange for Safe Delivery
You’ve gone to all this trouble to learn the do’s and don’ts of ordering online. There’s only one step left: make sure your parcel arrives safely.
Your main foe at this stage is the plague known as parcel theft. Opportunistic thieves have been swiping unattended packages from doorsteps for as long as there’s been mail, but it’s become an increasingly pernicious problem in the age of e-commerce. Some thieves have even been known to follow delivery trucks.
A secure mailbox like the Parcel Guard is your best protection against parcel theft.