8 Ways To Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

And help keep yourself safe

8 Ways To Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

Can You Protect Yourself when Shopping Online?

News of hacked websites is becoming more frequent and it struck me that perhaps we should just accept that if we are going to sign up to multiple websites, then inevitably, and at some point, we are likely to have our data stolen or leaked on-line. So rather than simply rely on a website to protect our data, as is their duty, are there any steps can we take ourselves to minimise the impact should it actually happen? In this post, I look particularly at shopping online where a risk of financial loss exists. Some of the ideas may work just as well if you are using non-financial websites.

Hacked? What does it Actually Mean?

A website gets hacked. What does it actually mean? In the recent case of TalkTalk, it meant that a vulnerability on one (or more) of the fields on one of its web pages, allowed hackers to make the website behave differently by injecting some database commands into that web page. This forced it to reveal a large number of customer details. This was probably facilitated by inexcusable sloppy programming on TalkTalk’s part. Other “hacks” you might have heard about simply modify existing pages to display pornography, propaganda or some political message.
There are many ways in which data can be lost or stolen and not all of them are simply down to the blanket term “hacking”. Mistakenly, data losses are often reported as “hacks” too, even when it may be that an employee lost an un-encrypted laptop or memory stick containing customer data.
Data loss can also be perpetrated internally by a disgruntled employee selling information in exchange for something or even perhaps through coercion from a 3rd party.  Aside from the damage to the website’s reputation, the outcome for all of these losses though is inevitably the impact on you, the customer, whose data is lost or stolen and sold on to scammers prepared to use it against you in some unforeseen way.

Some Ideas on How to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

So how can you limit the impacts if you assume that at some point your data will be stolen or compromised?

Don’t use a Debit Card

You are much better using a credit card or 3rd party payment system such as Paypal. Should details of your debit card be stolen, the money in your bank account could be wide open to be used until you, or your bank, detect the abnormal transactions. Banks these days will normally work with you to better understand the fraudulent transactions and be prepared to re-imburse you, but this may take a while. In the meantime, your account may be frozen and your debit card disabled. Dependent on the scale of the problem, this could mean you will have no access to your accounts and money for 5 days or more.
Credit cards usually have a special protection for online fraud (read your Terms and Conditions for details as they do vary) and any money stolen using your card will not be debited from your actual bank account provided you notify the card company first before paying your bill.   So always check your statement.

Don’t Store your Credit Card Details with the Website

Many websites suggest that you store your details with them to provide faster checkout when shopping with them next time. Companies that do this have to adhere to very strict security compliance rules and governance known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, usually shortened to PCI DSS. It is a framework established and agreed upon by the major payment brands. Storing of your credit card details will be subject to these rules. Of course applying these rules and security does not guarantee that your credit card details cannot be made available by hackers. No matter how trustworthy the website appears, if you don’t have to do it, then don’t. The additional pain of always having to find your card to purchase something will be outweighed by the inconvenience of potentially having your credit card used fraudulently.

Use a Special Email Address for Shopping Online

Most of us have a personal email address, which we use for our correspondence buy cheapest adipex online with friends and family as well as for registering with websites we visit. Of course for social sites, this may make some sense. But for other uses, particularly shopping sites, why use the same email address? Why not use a different one? One that you use just for shopping? It’ll mean that should your Online Shopping email account get hacked as a result of your details being stolen, your personal email account will not be compromised.

Your friends will also thank your for not involving them in some SCAM emails appearing to come from you. Losing access to your personal email is not a good experience. Once your email account is compromised, scammers will be able to request password resets from all the other sites you use, blocking you out of much of your online life. This situation can be extremely distressing and very difficult to recover from.

If your email provider facilitates a recovery option through additional security such as storing a secondary email address and a mobile number for sending a text confirmation in the event of a compromise, then I would recommend setting this up to help you regain access. It can also help in the event you’ve forgotten your password.
There are other benefits of different email accounts too. You’ll also stop getting bombarded by all those SPAM offers to your personal email account.

Avoid Leaving Your Mobile Number

Many websites are now optionally asking for mobile numbers. This can be very useful to let you know how your delivery is coming along down to the hour in which it will be delivered. With this convenience however comes a risk that your mobile number will be stolen too. Scammers when calling your number, aware that most of us treat our numbers as quite personal, may find it much easier to convince you of their authenticity.

Strong and Different Passwords

I’ve said it before and I am sure I’ll say it again. I can’t emphasis strongly enough the importance of registering on websites with strong passwords. Also create different passwords for each site. Read this, if you need more convincing. If you struggle, like me, to remember them all, then take a look at getting a Password Manager app that works across mobile and online.

Tell the World

Like what you’ve just bought? Like the service? Why not tell the world by clicking that Social Button and share it to get discount off your next order? … and tell everyone which websites you have an account with and even, in some cases, what you have bought. I suggest not doing this.

Got an Email Offer?

Watch out if it seems to good to be true. Signing up to a website usually means you’ve signed up to be bombarded with vouchers, marketing material and special offers tailored just for you. When you click on the offer, often embedded in the link is a special code that identifies you and the offer you are responding too. Just take care that the URL you are being sent to is one you expect. Scammers could have sent you an email which directs you to a look-a-like site where you may give away all your details inadvertently. Check the name of the domain. It is usually the name just before .com or the .co.uk.  Ignore all the numbers, hyphens and slashes that come after the .co.uk or .com. This is likely to be the offer code to identify you. If you are in doubt, find the website yourself through you favourite search engine. Though you may not be presented with the offer you saw in the original email.

That Little Padlock

Website padlockAlways make sure, when you start entering your payment or personal details into any website, that the little padlock is showing in the address bar. It looks like this. It provides an additional level of security by ensuring that the communication between your computer or mobile and the website is secure.

In summary then, there are some precuations you can take. It’s up to you which ones you think you can use without too much inconvenience. Let me know if you have other hints and tips to share.




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