Consumers find shopping on the internet easy and convenient, but it can provide an opportunity for criminals to commit card fraud from a distance in a non face-to-face and non-confrontational environment.
To help you avoid falling victim to financial fraud when shopping online follow our top tips:
- Take Five before you buy. If you’re using a retailer for the first time, always take time to research them before you give them any of your details. Be prepared to ask questions before buying
- Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to believe then there is usually a catch. Be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true
- Be sure you know who you are dealing with. Always access the website you are planning to buy from by typing the address into your web browser, and be wary of clicking on links in unsolicited emails
- Look for the padlock symbol in the address bar. It’s a good indication that they’re reputable
- Only use retailers you trust, for example ones you know or have been recommended to you. If you’re buying an item made by a major brand, you can often find a list of authorised sellers on their official website.
Your computer, mobile or tablet plays a central role in helping to ensure you remain safe when shopping online. Having the latest protection does not have to be costly and will help safeguard you from:
- Viruses and malware – malicious programs that infect your computer compromising security or performance
- Hackers – people who purposely and illegally access other computers/systems
The key questions to consider are:
- Do I have a firewall installed?
Firewalls protect your computer by acting as a barrier between the internet and your own computer. They regulate the traffic that flows to your machine and will block many key threats e.g. worms and trojans. There are two main types of firewall:
- Software firewalls – These are included for example with the latest versions of your computer’s operating systems although other commercial and shareware alternatives are available
- Hardware firewalls – These are often built into your broadband router
- Do I have anti virus software that defends against viruses, malware and other online threats?
Anti-virus software provides protection by:
- Scanning incoming emails for attached viruses
- Monitoring computer files as they are opened or created to make sure they are not infected
- Regularly checking the ’health’ of your computer, mobile or tablet. Anti-virus software is produced by a number of companies and increasingly many banks are now offering such software, details of which you can find on their websites
- Is my computer, mobile or tablet setup to get the latest security updates?
As and when new security vulnerabilities appear, software manufacturers respond by issuing updates known as patches (a release of software designed to update or fix problems with a computer programme).To help stay safe it is important that you download these updates on a regular basis.
Before entering sensitive information (such as your card details) online, you should always check that this information is being handled securely.
Whenever you are typing in personal information, make sure that the web address (in the address bar) begins with https (the s stands for ’secure’). Also check to see if a small locked padlock appears in the browser window.
The ’padlock’ is one way of checking that a website is secure and indicates that your information will be encrypted.
This seems like a very simple message but all too often we are more excited about our shopping than we are about keeping our card details safe. You should always log out of websites by clicking ’log out’ on the site. At some sites, simply closing the browser window or typing in another address can still leave your details at risk.
Following common sense security advice is especially important if you use a public or shared computer (e.g. at libraries, cafes, and airports). Most web browsers can keep a record of your passwords and every page you visit. This information may be accessed even after you’ve closed down.
Key things to remember
- If the website you are using for either shopping, banking or emailing has a ’Sign out’ or ’Log off’ button then click it when you have finished
- It is recommended that you print out your online order. This will always help you when it comes to checking your credit card or bank statement. It is also useful should a dispute arise
- If using a public computer to access social networking sites/chat sites, never use the “remember me” button, and log off when you are finished