Christmas will be upon us before we know it and now is the time many of us turn our attention to buying Christmas presents.
If you’re like a lot of people these days you’ll probably do a good portion of that Christmas shopping online.
But how can you stay safe while online Christmas shopping?
In this guide we’re going to look at the different ways you can protect your online shopping so you don’t fall foul of criminals who are intent on relieving you of your cash – even at this festive time.
While you can’t completely eliminate the threat, you can minimise the chances of it happening and ensure that if it does happen it wasn’t down to your own lack of security.
1) Install anti-virus software
One of the most important steps you can take to secure your online shopping is to install anti-virus software such as Kaspersky.
This will protect your computer from being infected by malware and viruses that could be used to record your payment details or redirect you to websites that aren’t official when making payment.
It’s also critical to keep your anti-virus software up to date because the protection is only as good as what it knows and if you’re using an outdated version then any new threats are likely to still get through.
2) Install a VPN app
When you shop online, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks such as your office, library or a cafe then your personal details can be exposed.
A VPN is a small app that is available for both mobile and traditional computers that scrambles all of the information you’re passing to the internet. (See Also: Our Best VPN for Mobile guide)
It is this process known as “encryption” that stops anyone on the same network from snooping on what you’re doing and potentially stealing your personal information.
3) Stick to reputable online shops only
While the internet is a great place to pick up bargains, some are just too good to be true.
There are many unscrupulous websites that claim to offer authentic products that either sell fakes or you won’t receive any product after handing over your money.
A favourite of fraudsters are brands such as Ray Bans or limited edition sneakers. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is and you should exercise caution.
It’s got the correct logo, but Ray Bans for £16? We think not.
Often cheaper copies can be found on sites such as eBay but also on websites that have similar names to the authentic site.
It’s not worth losing all your money for a supposed saving of 10 or 20 pounds. We suggest using websites that you trust, such as high street names like Footlocker and Boots and reputable online stores such as Amazon and The Hut.
- We recommend: Using well known companies.
4) Do your research
If you really just have to buy that bargain from a site that you’ve previously never heard of then do your research.
Check the website has contact details listed and if not then avoid that site. Any reputable website will list their contact details.
A good way to check the legitimacy of a website is to check who registered the domain (the name of the website, eg; vpncompare.co.uk)
You want to check real contact details are listed and that the website has been registered for a good period of time. If it only popped up a few weeks or months ago or contact details are false or hidden then you should avoid shopping on that site.
You can see who has registered .com domains at Network Solutions WHOIS Lookup and .co.uk domains at Nominet WHOIS.
For example, when searching Amazon.co.uk you can see details are displayed registered to a company in Luxembourg and the domain was registered before 1996.
- We recommend: Researching the company you’re buying from.
5. Keep an eye on your bank statements
As much as you love shopping online, so do criminals. Unlike you though, they like to pay with other people’s details and you can certainly fall foul of this even without knowing.
It’s important at any time of year to keep an eye on your bank, credit card, Paypal and other financial statements but the risk of being defrauded increases at this time of year.
Keep an eye on your transactions using online banking or checking your monthly statements. For services that don’t issue traditional statements such as Paypal, log in regularly to check over the transactions. If you see anything you don’t recognise then report it immediately.
- We recommend: Checking your financial statements regularly
To remain safe when shopping online this Christmas take note of the 5 tips above but above all remember to exercise the same level or more as when shopping on the high street.
Remember, criminals can remain anonymous on the internet so it’s often difficult to track them down should you lose money.
Don’t fret too much, the act of shopping online should make your life easier but just remember to exercise caution.