Shopping Tips to Avoid Cyber Scams

by Keith Morris

Topic: Safe Online Shopping

It’s more convenient to shop online in an increasingly busy world than to go to a store. Many online businesses offer next-day delivery, there is no need to go out in the cold and rain, and you don’t have to sit in traffic before making your purchases. However, many cyber criminals take advantage of consumers who shop online. 

Some of these scams are easy to spot, but criminals use sophisticated programs and techniques to access your personal information and steal your money. It’s essential to shop safely online and avoid practices that could expose you to online financial scams.


Shopping Tips To Prevent Cyber Scams

1. Check the Seller’s Identity

Seller identity may not be an issue when shopping with a large online store with a national or global reputation, but buying from smaller businesses is increasingly popular. Some websites allow anyone to set up an online business in minutes. This facility makes it easy for cyber criminals to create and advertise stores even when they have no merchandise.

Always check the website for the business name, address, email address, and phone number. It is good practice to contact the store before making a purchase. If they don’t answer the phone during working hours or your email bounces back, these are warning signs you may be dealing with a cyber criminal with a fake online store.

2. Read The Reviews

If all reviews sound the same, this is a red flag that they have created fake accounts and posted multiple reviews to make them appear legitimate.

Before purchasing from a small store or individual, check their reviews. If they don’t have any comments, they may just have started selling online. Being new to online commerce doesn’t mean they are dishonest, but make sure they aren’t claiming they’ve been in business for years. It’s vital to only buy from honest retailers.

If there are plenty of reviews, take the time to read them. If they all sound the same, this is a red flag that they have created fake accounts and posted multiple reviews to make them appear legitimate. If the comments are from consumers who report orders not arriving or the retailer being unresponsive to refund queries, it’s best to look for another supplier.


3. Don’t Provide Too Much Information

If a website asks for your social security number, it is more than likely a cyber scam.

Online businesses only need specific information to complete a transaction. It’s reasonable if a website requests your name, address, phone number, and payment card details to make a sale. However, if they ask for your social security number, it is more than likely a cyber scam. 


4. Shop on Secure Websites

The website URL should read “https” with the “s” at the end, indicating the site utilizes an additional layer of security called Secured Socket Layer (SSL).

There is always some risk when providing financial information, such as credit card details, to online businesses. However, you can reduce the chances of being a victim of cyber scams by only shopping on secure websites. 

The website URL should read “https” with the “s” at the end, indicating the site utilizes an additional layer of security called Secured Socket Layer (SSL). You can also use a domain search website to look up the age of the domain name. Although not a foolproof method to determine if a site is suspicious, an older domain name is less likely to be a criminal enterprise.


5. Check the Website Layout

If you notice the site’s layout is basic and unprofessional, a criminal may have quickly set it up to scam innocent consumers.

The eCommerce industry is fiercely competitive, and professional sellers go to great lengths to make their websites look attractive. If you notice the site’s layout is basic and unprofessional, a criminal may have quickly set it up to scam innocent consumers. 

Similarly, if there are spelling mistakes or the text contains poor grammar, this should be a warning sign that the website may belong to a cyber criminal. Look for a privacy policy page and make sure the site says it will not use your information for any reason other than completing the transaction. 

All reputable companies should have a privacy policy and adhere to stringent online regulations. If a website doesn’t have information about how they use your information, the seller may be untrustworthy.


6. Don’t Fall for Unbelievable Offers

Many cyber scams occur because consumers think they’re getting the deal of a lifetime, only to find out the seller never had the product in the first place.

Everyone loves a bargain, but if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Many cyber scams occur because consumers think they’re getting the deal of a lifetime, only to find out the seller never had the product in the first place. 

When you see an amazing online deal, open another browser tab and search for the same product on other websites. If other retailers sell the item at a considerably higher price, then the chances are the much cheaper offer is a scam.


7. Have a Dedicated Online Shopping Card

Ensure the credit limit is low, so if a criminal gains access to the card details, they can’t spend a lot of money.

Try to use one card for all your online shopping transactions. You should also ensure the credit limit is low, so if a criminal gains access to the card details, they can’t spend a  lot of money. 

You can check with your credit card company if they offer insurance against being the victim of a cyber crime. In this scenario, your insurer reimburses you for any online theft where you have taken reasonable precautions to shop safely.


8. Check Your Financial Statements

Some online scammers may make regular small transactions hoping you won’t notice lesser amounts of money coming out of your account.

Many online companies offer a credit account to their customers, and they also save your payment card details on their systems. If cyber criminals gain access to your credit account, they could make purchases without your knowledge. The financial loss could be even worse if they learn your card details and use them to run up huge bills. 

It’s essential to regularly check your statements and look out for any unusual activity. Some online scammers may make regular small transactions hoping you won’t notice lesser amounts of money coming out of your account. If you notice any discrepancies, immediately contact the company to make them aware of the potential fraud.


9. Use Online Security Software

Antiviruses block harmful software and alert you when there has been an attempted security breach.

Reduce the risk of criminals infecting your computer with a virus that could steal your financial details using antivirus software. These programs block harmful software and alert you when there has been an attempted security breach. By being aware of which site attacked your computer, you can block it and use a different online retailer.

Conclusion

There is always a degree of risk when shopping online. However, you can minimize the chances of falling victim to cyber crime by only buying from reputable retailers. Keep an eye out for warning signs, and enjoy shopping online with confidence.


About the Author

Keith Morris is a 20+ year veteran of the security game, with the knowledge and experience to set you on the right track toward personal safety and security. His firm is committed to giving you the tools and know-how to combat any threat to your safety.