As online shopping becomes more prevalent as an everyday experience, it’s fair to ask yourself: am I being safe when purchasing things online?
We’re prompted with checkout pages and without much thought, input banking information like it’s second-nature. You freely give away your credit card number over the phone when ordering a pizza, unsure of whether the person on the other end of the line will keep your information private.
Luckily, most companies have standardized their online checkout processes to safely and privately take payment. There are also legal protections put in place to prevent fraud and unauthorized use of your personal banking information.
Though by these measures online shopping is considered safe, it is still important to understand how to securely shop online and figure out which payment method is right for you. This starts with identifying secure sites and gaining insight into your payment options.
To safely use electronic payment online, you want to ensure that the websites you choose to visit are secure. An easy way to filter out unsafe websites is to look for the padlock symbol by the URL in the address bar. This symbol indicates that the website is encrypted, so it conceals your personal data from being shared. You can also look for “https” before the url. The added ‘s’ ensures that the communication between your device and the website is also encrypted.
Most valid companies also list their contact information directly on their site. If you see the contact information readily available that’s a good sign. You can also go one step further and use a third party site, like WhoIs, to double check that the domain registration matches the contact.
When it comes to shopping online, it’s also a good idea to trust your instincts. If a website seems questionable, do not make a purchase on it. If you’re unsure, browse the site to see if they have legitimate customer reviews, a social media presence, or any other feedback that you can find.
Once you have verified that the website you are shopping on is safe, the second step is to choose what type of payment method to use. Are you all about swiping credit cards to cover the costs? Or do you prefer prepaid cards to keep you on budget. Here are the most common and safe options to use online.
Credit cards are the most popular option for shopping online, and are a secure way to go due to laws put in place to prevent fraud.
The Fair Credit Billing Act prevents customers from unfair billing practices. This law gives customers 60 days to dispute charges of over $50 that they believe are falsely charged. Banks also have options for fraud protection for credit card users who believe their card is being used without their consent.
Apple has claimed to reinvent the credit card, by allowing users to store their information, like the credit card number, expiration date, and security code, on their iPhone. This information is protected on your phone through their face and touch ID and can also be changed regularly without the need to send you a new card.
Capital One is another company offering virtual credit cards designed specifically for people to shop online. Their program, Eno, provides you with a virtual credit card number to use when checking out.
Debit cards are another popular mode of payment for online shopping. The benefit of debit cards is that funds are removed directly from your account, which saves you from acquiring debt that can accumulate from credit.
Similar to credit cards, most debit cards are also protected by fraud through processes imposed by your bank. Many banks utilize 24-hour monitoring, which will hone in on suspicious activity that is not representative of your typical shopping habits.
If you want to try an alternative to credit and debit cards, a third party site is the way to go. Sites like Paypal have established themselves as the middleman for processing payments. When you checkout and choose Paypal as your payment option, you only have to provide your shipping address and email to make your purchase. You don’t have to share your personal banking or credit information. All of this information is instead, secured in the Paypal site.
You can also purchase Visa gift cards, both in stores and online, to act as prepaid debit cards with limited use. These cards are accepted everywhere Visa is accepted, so they are a popular alternative to using your personal credit card. They also have a limited amount of funds on them, which is prepaid by you, to ensure that you will not overspend.
When shopping online, you have many options to ensure that your information will remain safe and secure. The popularization of online shopping has forced the laws, banks and websites selling products to adjust their policies to protect consumer rights.
Some sites ensure extra security with a two factor authorization while others have designed completely virtual credit cards which allow you to use rotating credit card numbers.
So is it safe to shop online? Yes. However, it does require a little extra effort on your end to make sure that you are using valid sites and that you understand the rights you can exercise in case you’re faced with a fraudulent charge.
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