Buying Online

Online shopping is now a norm for most people, though it can be confusing to work out where to buy from and how to keep your purchases secure.

To begin with, finding an online retailer which you can trust is very important. To do this, it is useful to research the company online and read some reviews about their practice from other customers or from consumer websites. Where reviews are overwhelmingly positive, a website is more likely to be reputable and trusted. 

It is not always compulsory to set up an account with a retailer to make a purchase. If your visit to this online retailer is likely to only be once, then you may be able to simply check out as a ‘guest’. If you do choose to create an account, as always, it is imperative to use a strong and unique password to protect this account. While you may have many online accounts, it might be hard to remember each password, so writing them down is effective, or opting to use a password manager may work better for some. If available, take advantage of multi-factor authentication, which adds another step to the log-in process, to further prohibit others from gaining access to your account. 

When giving details over to a website, only fill in the mandatory boxes. This will usually include name, delivery address, payment details and email address, and the mandatory details tend to be labelled with an asterisk (*). It is recommended that you only save your details with the site if you know that you are likely to shop on this website often. Similarly, consider whether to save your details automatically on a shared device, as others using that device will be able to log-in to your accounts easily. 

Once you have found a dependable website, there are steps you can take to make a secure payment. First, if possible, try to use a credit card as your means of purchase. This is helpful due to the fact that credit cards tend to protect online purchases, and will refund you in certain situations. Further, if your card details are stolen, this will only be from your credit card, and your primary bank account should not be affected. If you have used a debit card for purchase and something goes wrong, there are some ways in which you may be able to claim back your money. 

Other payment methods such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay add another element of security, in that through these payment methods, the retailer itself does not have access to your payment information. If things go wrong, these third parties are often able to challenge the issue themselves, making it potentially easier for you to get your money back. Setting up an account with these various payment providers is straightforward and effective. 

After purchasing from an online retailer, you are likely to receive many marketing emails from them. Sometimes, you may have the option to ‘opt-out’ of receiving these emails if you wish. Just remember to stay mindful of any scam emails, which may offer fake ‘deals’. If you are unsure whether an offer is genuine or not, search for the company and offer online to find out more.   

Along a similar vein, gift card scams are increasing in number, and so it is important to stay aware of these attacks. Hackers may impersonate a company giving away free gift cards, or impersonate a friend asking you to purchase a giftcard on their behalf, for which they will reimburse you later. The number of scams are numerous, but by staying alert, you can help to avoid them. Follow the usual protocol of evading scams by being wary of unexpected communications via text, email, call or social media. Beware of clicking links on social media which claim you have won a free gift card, and do not enter any personal information to those claiming to be sending a free card. 

If you ever suspect your card has been used by anyone else, contact your bank immediately on a trusted number. Also, if you have been misled by an online retailer or have not received your item correctly, then there are ways in which you can get help, depending on your mode of purchase. Third parties such as PayPal can be contacted, as well as your bank or credit card provider. Citizens Advice can also offer information regarding online purchase issues.