6 Tips for Secure Online Shopping While Exploring the World

Shopping online is a habit that’s not easy to break, even if you’re out of town having the time of your life on holiday.

That said, it’s important to practice vigilance while purchasing random things online. Scams and fraud attempts can happen when you least expect it—and you could be one of the thousands of yearly victims who have fallen for these predatory tactics.

With the rise of creative methods scammers employ to trick innocent people, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of these scam attempts and keep your assets tightly protected.

Wondering how you can start shopping online with peace of mind? Without further ado, here are six tips to shop online safely when you’re exploring the world.

1. Monitor Your Credit Card Statements

Wherever you are visiting in the world, even if it’s as safe as Singapore, it’s important that you look at your credit card statements at the end of each month.

Looking at your credit card statement allows you to see if the report reflects your real-life spending. If there are any discrepancies, you can contact your credit card provider and make the necessary report for that.

That said, it’s generally better to be watchful of your credit card and prevent it from entering that situation, especially when you’re abroad. To do so, avoid card skimmers and don’t give your credit card to other people during your trip, even if it’s just for a short time.

Your bank provider may also set up text alerts if they notice any suspicious activity with your credit card. Keep an eye on these texts and follow the instructions presented in the text if you detect fraudulent activity. 

You can deactivate your credit card by calling your provider, even if you’re online.

Want to protect yourself from fraud and scammers? This guide from Westpac Australia can give you more tips to keep yourself safe when online shopping.

2. Engage in Secure Online Shops Only

If you want to buy things online, it’s often a safe bet to buy from trusted eCommerce websites. For instance, you can’t go wrong buying from the likes of Amazon and Walmart if you’re buying from North America. If you’re in Australia, shopping in Woolies and Coles won’t let you down.

These large eCommerce websites tend to have strict consumer protection policies that can help you in case a merchant decides to pull a fast one on you. They may even provide refunds if your item gets lost during transit.

This guarantee is often not present in smaller and lesser-known retail shops. While some are definitely legitimate enterprises, not all specialty stores you can find online are willing to go the extra mile to help you after the payment has gone through.

That said, if you have no choice but to shop at a niche store, then a good way to check the website’s legitimacy is by looking for a padlock with a “https://” in the browser bar. 

The presence of this indicator can point towards a website’s legitimacy, which can be the go-to signal for you to engage with them with peace of mind.

3. Use Secure Payment Gateway Services

When buying things online, it’s of utmost importance that you buy using secure payment gateways. These include credit cards and digital payment services like Wise and Paypal.

The reason why buying through these gateways is preferable is because they’re securely processed and have consumer protection policies in place. They also come with SSL certificates and trusted security seals, which can prevent unauthorized access to your financial and personal information.

If you buy through means like bank transfer or crypto payments, you’re running the risk of the seller taking your money and running. This is especially likely if you’re buying secondhand items with sellers from countries whose identities you can’t pinpoint.

4. If It’s Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Have you spotted a deal online that seems absurd at that price point? If so, be wary—because it’s very likely a lure set to catch unsuspecting buyers.

It’s very easy for scammers to grab the attention of buyers by advertising a product with unrealistic value. 

These deals are almost always not legitimate deals, and such fraudulent sites are set up to simply steal the identity and financial information of the people who happen to fall for this trick.

As such, before making any hasty decisions when shopping online, check the website’s reputation. Practice healthy skepticism when engaging with these websites, especially if the website is new to you—which is often likely the case when you’re using public WiFi from a new country.

Don’t just look for proof within the website, as it’s easy for scammers to set up fake reviews and information to disguise their true, malicious intentions. Verify from external websites and gather proof of whether shopping on that website is a good idea or not.

If you find that the sale is indeed legitimate, then go ahead and make your purchase. Just be sure that you don’t save any information on the website if you don’t plan on going back to it post-trip.

5. Practice Safe Password Storing Habits

Another way to prevent bad actors from gaining unauthorized access to your account is by maintaining proper password storage practices.

For one, ensure that you’re using a strong password at all times. Use a mix of alphanumeric characters with symbols. At least 10 characters would suffice to make it hard for hackers to figure out your password manually.

Furthermore, refrain from reusing the same password from every website as much as possible. It just takes a single data breach for your entire digital identity to be in jeopardy.

Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords for your various accounts. You should also enable two-factor authentication whenever you can to limit unauthorized access to your accounts. 

6. Check The Seller’s Reputation

On the Internet, you could be dealing with a wide range of people. You could be buying from an established retailer, a small mom-and-pop store, or a single individual.

Given this variance, it’s good practice to read up on the seller’s reputation before engaging with them. Look at their reviews and ratings on the platform or separate review sites. 

Do they uphold their promise of providing quality products to their customers? Do they deliver things fast and efficiently? Look at their credibility and decide for yourself if they’re worth a shot.

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