We share our top tips for keeping your finances safe when you shop online.
Whether you're planning to treat yourself in the sales or are looking to pick up some pre-Christmas bargains, there's no doubt that shopping online can be quicker, less stressful and often more economical than venturing out onto the high street.
However, in the current economic climate where retailers are seemingly going bust left, right and centre it's more important than ever to make sure that you're protecting yourself online.
So, to help you to keep safe in the sales we share our top tips for shopping safely online:
1. Use a credit card
When shopping online it's generally considered safer to make purchases using a credit card rather than a debit card. There are number of reasons for this which include...
Your credit card isn't in any way connected to your bank account, unlike your debit card. This means that while a fraudster may be able to run up a big credit card bill in your name, they won't be able to withdraw funds from your current account, leaving you with immediate cash flow problems.
2. Protect your computer
Before you even think about making a purchase online it's vital that you check that your computer is adequately protected with the latest anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware software. It's also important to make sure that you regularly install updates to your operating system as this will prevent hackers from exploiting any known weaknesses.
3. Find out who you're buying from
Just because a website looks professional, it doesn't mean that the company behind it is legitimate.
Where possible you should try to shop only with retailers that are well know or have been recommended to you. If you're not familiar with the company you're planning to make a purchase from you should check that they publish a landline telephone number and geographical address on their site and make a note of these.
It's also a good idea to do a quick search for reviews of the company on the internet to find out how others have found the service they provide.
Remember, if an offer seems to be to good to be true and you don't recognise the website, it's safest to steer clear.
4. Check the website is secure
When you go to pay for an item check that that the web address has changed from "http://" to "https" as this signifies you are on a secure area of the site. A small padlock symbol will also be displayed in your browser window, usually in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.
5. Read the small print
All legitimate companies will publish a detailed list of terms and conditions relating to payment, delivery, cancellation and returns on their site. You should take the time to familiarise yourself with these conditions so that you understand completely what kind of service you will be provided with.
6. Set up extra protection
The services offered by Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode help to protect your finances online in much the same way as using chip and pin does offline. Simply by setting up an additional password to enter when you make a purchase you're helping to prevent your card from being used online by anyone else.
7. Choose your passwords wisely
Many websites require you to set up an account before you're able to make a purchase and while it's often easier to simply use the same password for each, in practice it's a much better idea to be a bit more creative.
It's best to set up a different password for each website and to use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols where possible. This will make it all the more difficult for someone to break into your accounts and access your details.
8. Check your statements
It's important to regularly check your bank and credit card statements so that you're aware of any unauthorised transactions as soon as possible, this is particularly the case if you have recently been shopping online.
If you suspect a problem you should firstly contact the retailer in question to see if they are able to resolve the issue. However, if this prooves fruitless you should then get in touch with your credit or debit card provider for further guidance.