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How to shop safe online
Got the January blues? The one thing that might cheer you up is the thought of all those Christmas cash gifts you’ve still got to spend – if you weren’t first in the queue at the Boxing Day sales that is!
When you’re stuck indoors because it’s freezing and grey outside, visiting your favourite online store is sure to bring you joy. But the ease of cyber-shopping makes some people complacent – so here’s our top tips for staying safe when shopping online.
What do other shoppers say?
As buyers, we have more choice now than ever before. Not only are there the traditional favourite high street stores, but there’s also a host of independent retailers to choose from – not to mention the seemingly infinite number of online retailers. However, with so much choice, are you at greater risk of making a bad one?
Luckily, when you shop online you have the option of getting a review of the retailer you’re considering before you buy. You don’t even have to look far – in many cases you simply scroll down the product page you’re looking at to see a customer review of the same item.
Alternatively you can get an expert review by visiting a website like Which?. Here you can find out how popular household products have performed when put through their paces by the group’s research team – and if the item you have your eye on hasn’t done well, chances are a better one will be recommended.
Too good to be true?
Online shopping isn’t the exciting new fad it once was, and most of us are now savvy e-shoppers. However, it still pays to be vigilant because sometimes what looks like an amazing deal could be a disaster waiting to happen.
For instance, you might be hoping to buy your child a bike for their birthday but the one you have your eye on costs £200. If you find it being sold online for £100, you’ll probably be keen to snap it up. But before you click ‘buy’, ask yourself why it’s going so cheap. It might be that a retailer is clearing out old stock to make way for the new, in which case it’s a great deal. But, equally, the bike they’re selling could be faulty or even fake.
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious, read customer reviews and if you decide to go ahead and make the purchase, use your credit card so you’re protected by Section 75.
Making a big purchase? Use your credit card
Have you heard of Section 75? Well if you haven’t, you could think of it as your spending shield in case something goes wrong when you shop with your credit card.
Under this rule, if you make a purchase that costs more than £100 (and less than £30,000) and something goes wrong – it never arrives at your home, you’re sent the wrong item, or it’s broken, for example – your credit card provider is jointly responsible with the retailer for giving you a refund.
What does this mean in practice? Basically, if you’re entitled to a refund and the company you bought it from either isn’t cooperating or isn’t able to (perhaps they’ve gone out of business) you’re still entitled to a refund through your credit card provider. So, you won’t be left out of pocket.
Don’t use PayPal for pricey purchases
The reason some shoppers like to use online payment systems like PayPal is that they input their credit card or bank details once and don’t have to again. This means you don’t have to worry about your personal financial details being at risk of a sneaky hacker every time you enter your credit card information.
However, it’s worth remembering that when you use PayPal you’re not always covered under Section 75. PayPal does have its own form of buyer protection, which is great if you’re making a small purchase, but if you’re spending over £100 it might be best to pay with your credit card directly so you have the added protection of Section 75.
And while we’re at it, if you want real peace of mind that your transaction is protected, find out whether the online checkout is over HTTPS. This is a secure and encrypted protocol that ensures your financial data stays private when it’s exchanged with the retailer. Just look in the top left hand corner of your browser window – for example, here’s how the secure pages look on Amazon:
Don’t give the bad guys an easy ride
Many online stores let you set up an account with them so that you can make future purchases just by entering your password, rather than all your credit card details. If you do most of your shopping online, this can be extremely convenient.
However, you might end up with accounts with several different retailers as a result and keeping track of all those passwords can be difficult. Whatever you do though, don’t be tempted to just use one for all your accounts. This can open up your credit card details to risk from hackers.
It might seem like a pain but try and use a different password for every account you set up – and make sure it’s hard to guess. Use a mixture of small and capital letters and numbers and update it regularly.
Speaking of bad guys, where possible you may want to avoid online shopping with your phone or tablet if you’re using public Wi-Fi. Open networks are not always encrypted, which means that other people using that network may be able to see the pages you’re visiting and any information you input. Not the best environment for using your credit card!
You should be similarly careful if you use a shared computer. Many websites retain your password information to log you in automatically the next time you visit through that computer – but if the next visit is by someone else, this is a ‘convenience’ that’s best avoided.
We hope you’ve found this guide to staying safe when shopping with your credit card online useful. If you’d like more tips for staying safe online, click here.