Online shopping has become an easy and fun way for consumers to shop from the comfort of their homes, and have it delivered to their door. But just as this platform has skyrocketed, so have scams and cyberattacks. Here are some tips on how consumers can be safe while shopping online:
Avoid using public Wi-Fi for purchases
Public Wi-Fi places such as malls and coffee shops, place you at greater risk of having your connection intercepted by fraudsters. When this happens, they have access to your usernames and passwords.
Use secure, familiar websites
When online shopping, use websites that you are familiar with, or secure ones. This will reduce the risk of compromising your private information. Some key signs show if the site is secure: a lock image in the toolbar, secure payment methods such as PayFast or OZOW. Secure websites are configured to hide the sensitive information you share, such as passwords or card details. Look out for an ‘s’ after HTTP:// in the web address – it should look like: HTTPS://. If you are an avid online shopper, above all else, use good quality antivirus software.
Do not click on untrusted pop-up ads
When visiting sites, it is common practice for retailers to use pop-up ads to advertise on-site promotions or bring awareness to a newsletter or flyer. However, consumers need to be vigilant against phishing scams. Those very pesky ads are a way for scammers to lure shoppers into a trap. Thus, it is important to update and install an ad-blocker when shopping on unfamiliar sites.
Keep your eyes open for suspicious emails
Scammers have become quite skilled at mimicking popular websites making it easier to create fraudulent emails that look valid. Clicking on any links in a suspicious email can lead you to a fake website that can infect your system with malware. Remember, your bank, or any relevant financial body will ask for your personal information such as ATM PIN or card number via email or over the phone.
Beware deals that are too good to be true
Everyone is hunting for a good deal, and scammers know this all too well. These rock-bottom price ads are commonplace on social media, and according to the US Federal Trade Commission, money lost from social media scams have tripled in the past year. Compare prices before you buy – and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If an item is priced lower than what it should be, this should raise a red flag about the authenticity of the site – it could be set up to steal your information (and your money).
In addition to being vigilant when festive seasons rollover, consumers should be mindful of their password hygiene – this means choosing a strong, unique password for each account, and changing them regularly.
When you buy:
- If possible, try and verify the buyer’s identity, or ask for a copy of their ID
- Check if the collection point exists, and do not collect an item on your own
- Do not give a deposit on goods – pay cash for items you checked in person. If you are required to pay a deposit to ‘secure’ the item, know that it is a scam!
- Do not carry large sums of money when meeting a seller, offer to do an EFT or have them accompany you to the bank to draw the money – only once you have both agreed on the sale.
- Cross check images and descriptions of the item. You want these to match each other. Sometimes scammers may use images they find online to trick potential buyers.
- Keep a copy of order statements and receipts – make sure you read any fine print.
When you sell:
- When you receive proof of payment, call your bank to verify the legitimacy of the transaction. It has been known that scammers will imitate bank confirmation messages.
- It is always best to meet a potential buyer in a public space.
- As best as possible, deal with buyers who are based in South Africa.
If you suspect you may be a victim of a scam, contact the site, social media, or classifieds Help Centre for further assistance. Additionally, you can report this to the police, and a case number will be opened. However, keep these tips in mind, and they may help you foil a scammer from making you a target.