There’s every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind-boggling. The shopping is secure. Shipping is fast. Even returns are easy, with the right e-tailers. Shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers. And in the age of COVID, it’s safer than going out even if you’re fully masked and gloved. 

But what about the bad guys? It happens. There are lots of complains about non-delivery of goods bought, not receiving what you bought, or getting your card details leaked. Nonetheless, stay calm. While the complains are somewhat alarming, they should not keep you from shopping online. You simply need to use some common sense and follow practical advice. Here are basic guidelines; use them and you can shop with confidence.

LOOK FOR THE LOCK

Never buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS—instead of just HTTP. An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically to the left of the URL in the address bar or the status bar down below; it depends on your browser. HTTPS is standard now even on non-shopping sites, enough that Google Chrome flags any page without the extra S as “not secure.” So a site without it should stand out even more.

DON’T OVERSHARE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION

No online shopping e-tailer needs your Social Security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them and your credit card number, they can do a lot of damage. The more scammers know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up as little personal data as possible. Major sites get breached all the time. 

CREATE STRONG PASSWORDS

Even your perfect password isn’t perfect. The smarter move: use a password manager to create uncrackable passwords for you. It will keep track of them and enter them, so you don’t have to think about it. 

LOOK UP THE PAYMENT GATEWAY

It is most likely that an e-tailer is using a third party to process their funds. These payment portals only allow legitimate businesses to accept payments with their services, but don’t be too sure, as these programs can be written by anyone, even the bad guys. Before you process a payment on a website or in an app, check for the credibility of the payment gateway in use. Shoes Paddy is using PAYSTACK to process our payments.

DO NOT SHOP OVER PUBLIC WIFI

Some public wifi can keep track of all websites you are visiting and may get access to your card details or passwords, which could be very dangerous as we do not know or trust the person at the receiving end. What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you have to enter the credit card number and expiration date and 3-digit code on the back into a  shopping site while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. Think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door. Use sites that you trust that already have your credit card stored, so you don’t have to pull it out for more than a latte. Better yet: stay home when online shopping. 

CHECK THE SELLER

If you’re wary of a site, perform your due diligence. If nothing else, make absolutely sure you’ve got a concrete address and a working phone number for the seller. If things go bad, you have a place to take your complaint. In fact, call them before you order so you can clarify a return policy and where to go with any issues after the purchase.

COMPLAIN LOUD AND PROUD

Don’t be embarrassed if you get taken for a ride while online shopping. Instead, get very, very mad. Complain to the seller. If you don’t get satisfaction, report it to the police, leave negative reviews or comments on their social media posts.

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