Protecting Privacy When Shopping Online

Long queues, hours walking through the store or nosy store clerks vis-a-vis the comfort of browsing through websites in the comfort of your home. One of the greatest modern conveniences of our time is the ability to purchase products online. However, in much the same way that we take steps to protect ourselves and our money when visiting stores, we must take the same precautions when shopping online by remembering the following 7 steps – S.H.O.P.P.E.R.

1. Sites

It is imperative that you inspect the sites on which you are making your purchases. It is best to use popular sites such as Amazon, Ebay, Target or the online branches familiar stores instead of search engines. Be wary of typos in the web address. Ensure that the site is legitimate and security enabled. A secure socket layer (SSL) encryption is represented by the web address featuring a padlock and beginning with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://.

2. Hoard

Print, save and hoard copies of all documents relating to online purchases such as product details, receipts, purchase confirmations and records of any communication with the retailer. This information is useful if you are not satisfied with the outcome of a transaction.

3. Off

Turn off the computer when you have finished shopping as a safety measure. An active computer means that hackers have long periods of access to your computer data via the Internet. Also log off accounts after checking out your cart so that no subsequent computer users gain access to your account and credit card information.

4. Protect your personal information

Never offer more information than is absolutely required to carry out the transaction. Also, be cautious of emails asking for information such as your credit card or social security number. Furthermore, always use a strong password which you change frequently. Do not use one password for all accounts because if one is hacked then all are compromised.

5. Payment

When making purchases, use reliable means of payment such as credit cards or PayPal as opposed to cash or debit cards. These offer a chargeback option in the event that a retailer is required to refund the buyer after a fraudulent transaction. The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 also ensures that consumers can dispute erroneous or fraudulent charges on credit card accounts. Therefore it is important to regularly check both electronic bank statements and bills when shopping online. Some credit card companies also offer single use credit card numbers protecting your real account.

6. Electronic Devices

  • Be wary of using mobile devices when shopping online. These devices may be less protected than computers from malware and other cyber security threats and many mobile-friendly versions of websites have shortened URLs without the security socket layer. Also, ensure that your phone is password protected to prevent the theft of shopping accounts and credit information if your phone is stolen.
  • It is also advisable to frequently renew and update anti-malware software, browsers and operating software on your devices such as desktop computers, to protect from malware and other virtual threats.
  • Furthermore, do not connect your devices to public wifi when shopping online as this makes your personal information even more accessible to outside parties.

7. Retailers

Similar to number one, check out your retailers and their credentials. Identify the physical location of the company headquarters and verify basic contact details such as email, post and telephone information. Over time, use trusted sellers with whom you are familiar.

Do not forget, when shopping online be a smart SHOPPER.

About Alyssa Mike

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Alyssa is one of the genii of Trinidad who won a scholarship for Stanford University. Prior to Privacy Shell, Alyssa played important roles such as President of SJC UNESCO

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