The international online shopping market sees transactions that amount to billions of dollars take place every month. As in every other market place, there are those who are looking to steal something in this sphere, so it’s best to make sure that you don’t end up a victim.
With the growing use of electronic cards and e-banking in the country, Nepalis are beginning to show an increased interested in shopping online. Unfortunately though, its popularity has attracted those who will pounce at any opportunity they might find to steal from us. As with everything else, techniques to do so have become increasingly advanced. Phishing—where thieves attempt to swindle you out of your sign-in credentials and even your credit card info by pretending to be a real website, or even an online bank; social engineering—where they pretend to be someone you know; malware or straight forward hacking are often carried out in highly sophisticated means and the frequency at which they occur is becoming higher as more and more people opt to shop online.
Although these facts might sound somewhat alarming, they should not keep you from shopping online. You simply need some basic common sense and practical advice. Below is a list of guidelines that can keep you safe in cyberspace and help you shop online with confidence.
Use Familiar Websites
The best way to keep yourself secure in cyberspace is to shop through a trusted site, one that millions of other people use. Your search engine can easily be rigged to lead you astray, particularly when you’ve drifted past the first few pages of the provided links. If you know the website, and have used it before, it is less likely to be a rip off. You should also beware of misspellings, and sites that use a variant top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example).
Use Encrypted Websites
Never use your credit card to buy anything from a site that doesn’t have an SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has an SSL because the URL for the site will start with an HTTPS:// (instead of just an HTTP ://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser (depending on what browser you are using), or right next to the URL in the address bar.
You should always be wary of what information you give out online. Be wary of those who ask for information besides what might be absolutely essential. For instance, no online shopping store needs your birthday to do business. Criminals, on the other hand, can cause much damage if they combine that with your credit card number. The more they know, the easier it will be for them to steal your identity.
Don’t wait till the end of the month to take a look at your bill. Check for electronic statements for your credit/debit cards and checking accounts online as regularly as you can. Make sure you do not overlook any fraudulent charges (even if the site is a trusted one). If anything seems even the least bit suspicious, get in touch with the company immediately.
Inoculate Your PC
Cyber criminals may have found their way into your computer itself in the form of malwares and other hidden codes in unsuspecting files and programmes (waiting to clone your private data). Install a good antivirus which will give you good anti malware protection. It is also important that you update them regularly. Software like Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus—which has extras to help fight ID theft—or the free Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0, may be helpful.
Use Strong Passwords
Using a strong password is the best way of protecting yourself. Be creative and create strong passwords; your date of birth, your phone number or your name are NOT strong passwords. Furthermore, do not use the same password for all the sites. This may add a layer of protection.
Avoid Public Terminals
Anybody who has used a public terminal at a café or even a library should know that it is a very bad idea to use these for online shopping. If you find that you have to shop online on one of these anyway (although there should hardly be such an ‘emergency’), follow every precaution possible: use private browsing, delete all history and use a virtual keyboard (even sitting with your back to the wall helps). Avoid using your laptop to shop from public networks if possible.
Pravatise Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with your laptop and shop, you’ll need a secure Wi-Fi connection. Only use your wireless when you are accessing the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. You can set up a free one with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield (if you’re willing to put up with the ads), or pay to skip the ads. There’s also an iOS app version of Hotspot Shield that does the same thing. Also, do not try out a hotspot you’re unfamiliar with and stick to known networks.
What Seems To Good To Be True, Probably Is?
While there are many unbelievable offers in the virtual marketplace, you should be wary and vigilant of those that seem to push the line between a great bargain and an impossible one. These, most likely, are fraudulent offers that hope to entice you to give up personal information so you should stay well away from them. Also, beware of ‘offers’ that come to you via social media. Skepticism, in most cases, can go a long way toward saving you from a stolen card number.
The wonders of the digital age are such that we are often left marveling and having to question ourselves whether it’s all real. Many of us are naturally suspicious of these new changes; the best way to make the most out of these technological wonders and remain safe is to balance this natural suspicion with the excitement of living in interesting times. Explore the endless possibilities online shopping has to offer, but always be cautious.
Source: The Kathmandu Post