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9 Tips for Shopping Online Safely

In recent years, the culture of buying goods and services via the Internet has expanded exponentially. Thanks to its convenience, full-time availability, and time-saving nature it has become an essential service. However, online shopping has equally become a hotspot for scammers and fraudsters. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission ranks online shopping among the top frauds that affect US consumers, resulting in huge money losses.

Case in point, online shopping was classified second among the top frauds in 2022, partly contributing to the $8.8 billion lost to fraud that year. As such, there have been widespread concerns over e-retail and calls for solutions to make systems secure for consumers. While technology is improving daily for that cause, there are some basic tips you can use to ensure safe online purchases. Here are nine essential tips to get you started.

1.    Secure Your Online Shopping Accounts

Ensure your account is well fortified with a unique password or pin at all times. This will protect you from hackers trying to infiltrate your account via a brute force attack, which involves guessing your password. An example of this is the Alibaba attack in 2016 that affected 99 million users.

Also, activate the 2FA protocol whenever available to secure your account from unauthorized access. Additionally, avoid sharing confidential account details with others to eliminate the risk of security breaches. Lastly, don’t save passwords on your devices, especially when using a public computer.

2.    Use Trusted Retailers and Platforms

As the e-commerce selling model booms, more businesses are compelled to join the trend. However, scammers are similarly at the top of these advances, albeit for the wrong reasons. For your safety, ensure that the retailer is trusted and operates legally. For instance, Amazon, Target, and eBay are secure platforms that have been in operation for years.

Additionally, check for the safety signs on the website, including:

  • SSL certificate; easily confirmed with a “padlock” sign next to the URL
  • The business name should match the domain name
  • Grammatical and typing errors are red flags
  • Poor website design, for example, unprofessional design or constant pop-ups is alarming
  • A relatively new domain for a business that claims extensive experience is questionable
  • Unconventional payment methods mean they are trying to hide something

In the event you receive calls or marketing emails from a purported e-commerce retailer, use PhoneHistory to confirm the real owner of the number. This site provides more information about a US number, including the owner’s contact information, business profile, location history, etc.

3.    If the Deal is Too Good...

Retailers regularly slash their prices during promotions, holidays, special events, etc. However, scammers are notorious for abusing this strategy, where they bait you with unbelievably cheap deals. For instance, an $80 offer for a $100 product looks realistic, but a $100 good discounted at $5 is too good to be true.

The deal is likely fake, and you risk losing your money without receiving the item. Therefore, make sure the deal is authentic before starting the purchase process.

4.    Monitor Account Activity

Many fraudulent schemes go unreported because they often go unnoticed. This is partly due to a lack of account monitoring. Check your account history, credit card activity, statements, and receipts. For example, if you didn’t add to your shopping cart and found something there, this may be a sign of unauthorized access.

By supervising your account regularly, you will likely catch the threat quickly, address it, and protect yourself from further attacks.

5.    Use a Virtual Credit Card

It is advisable to use a virtual credit card that uses a non-reusable number. This is important as you won’t expose sensitive card details such as CVV and credit card numbers after a transaction. Also, since these cards don’t hold money except for a single purchase, risk is minimized, and scammers are likely to avoid them.

Using a virtual card additionally protects you from the risk of identity theft, as personal details are not included. Finally, this card is not required in physical form, reducing the risk of losing it and landing in the wrong hands.

6.    Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Despite the convenience of public Wi-Fi, you risk getting spied on by scammers who may steal sensitive data and access your passwords. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if there is no other option but to use public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your connection, thus making it safe from the prying eyes of hackers.

7.    Avoid Oversharing Personal Data

Scammers know how to utilize your personal information for malicious purposes. Therefore, beware of sites asking you for sensitive personal data that is in no way related to using their platform for online shopping.

For example, an online retailer will rarely need your SSN. On the other hand, confirm the site’s privacy, data retention, and sharing policy before sharing your credit card numbers, passwords, addresses, etc.

8.    Check the Terms and Conditions

Always check the terms and conditions of any online shopping platform before buying anything. This will help you avoid unethical and predatory T&Cs. For example, some businesses may have terms and conditions that unfairly have ridiculous after-sale and cancellation fees.

Furthermore, some businesses avoid taking accountability for lost items. Therefore, read the T&Cs of a vendor and choose one with favorable policies. Hence, pay attention to the retailer’s return policy.

9.    Log Out After Purchases

Be sure to log out of your account, especially when using a public connection and computer. This will ensure nobody else accesses it after a purchase. Additionally, if you have 2FA in place, any attempt to log into your account may prompt a one-time password request or any other necessary identity factor.


E-retail offers convenience and flexibility, which explains its wide reception and massive growth worldwide. However, it poses a huge safety risk to shoppers, including data breaches, identity theft, and loss of money. Governments and regulatory bodies have tried to intervene, forcing companies to come up with innovative ways to make online shopping secure. However, the above linchpin measures will lay a solid groundwork for making online shopping safe. These tips are surefire ways to deal with the most vulnerable schemes of digital shopping fraud.