Shopping online safely

2014-01-26 14:00

Globally, online shopping in 2013 was estimated to be worth $963?billion (R10.4?trillion), according to World Wide Worx. This indicates a substantial increase from $159.7?billion in 2004.

In South Africa, e-commerce was expected to account for R4.2?billion of overall retail sales in 2013.

Kevin Hurwitz, the chief executive of SA, believes online shopping during the post-festive season is appealing because the experience is easier, quicker and sale items can be substantially cheaper than retail store counterparts.

“For those who do decide to shop online during this period, caution needs to be taken to protect against malicious websites and overspending,” warns Hurwitz.

Tips to ensure your online shopping experience is safe

1 Set and track your budget: It can be easy to overspend when buying online, especially with clearance sales and specials. Set a realistic budget that you stick to.

2 Shop securely: The convenience of online shopping can quickly be derailed if you become a victim of identity theft due to sharing your credit card and shipping data on a non-secure site.

Check the website is secure by verifying the address has an “s” in “https://” at the beginning of the URL, or alternatively, a closed padlock sign located in the URL bar indicating the website is protected by a trusted source. If you’re still worried about using your personal accounts for transactions, a prepaid debit card may be the way to go. But be sure to read the fine print so that you are aware of transaction fees.

3 Click with caution: Before clicking on links in marketing emails, use your cursor to hover over the link first to review the complete URL. Beware of small errors in website addresses such as missing letters, misspellings, a different “.com” extension or other tweaks to a company’s name. If you are uneasy, rather go directly to the company’s website and don’t use the link.

4 Keep it private: If you are using someone else’s computer and you don’t want people to see the sites you have visited, be sure to use the browser’s private browsing feature when buying online.

Private browsing allows you to surf the internet without saving any information about which sites you visited or searches you’ve conducted.

In some browsers, this may be found under the Tools menu. Check your browser’s specific settings to learn how to set up private browsing. Ideally, though, you should only shop online using a personal computer that no one else has access to.

5 Keep the receipt: Keep track of all your digital receipts. You can set up a Gmail account specifically for this. The digital receipts will come in handy if you need to return an item or query the amount billed.

You should also cross-reference purchase dates and totals with your bank and credit card statements.

6 Deactivate “remember me”: When you enter your bank card details for payment, make sure you uncheck the box that allows the merchant to store your bank card details.

7 Verify your credit card: Activate Verified by Visa to protect yourself against unauthorised online shopping purchases.

If you are paying with a Visa card that has been registered for the service, a window will appear with an authentication page.

It is an extra security layer for your protection. MasterCard has a similar system called MasterCard SecureCode. Every time you pay online with your MasterCard, a box pops up from your card issuer asking you for your personal SecureCode.

Within seconds, your card issuer can confirm it is you, allowing the transaction to be completed.

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