Be Safe When You Shop Online

Shopping online is wonderful, whatever your reason for loving it! As online shopping fanatics, we have a few lessons in how to shop safely on the web!

Even though you shop online all the time, you might this nagging thought at the back of your mind: is it safe? And every time you hit pay, you wonder… Is this website secure? What if my financial information is stolen?

Not all online shopping sites are secure. As an online shopper, getting savvy about cyber security is the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your financial information safe.

We’ve put together a quick guide to make it easier for you to protect yourself every time you shop online. See our top tips below:

Use Familiar and Trusted Websites

Search engine results can be manipulated to lead you astray to shady websites — especially when you find yourself past the first few search pages. Beware of misspelled websites or websites with trusted names but with a different domain like .net instead of .com. If the sales seem too good to be true, then it probably is.

That’s why you should always try and stick to websites and online retailers that have become household names like Rakuten, Amazon, Hudson’s Bay, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. — because you can’t go wrong with them.

Look for the Padlock

Never buy anything from a website that doesn’t have the padlock icon before the website address or if its URL has an http instead of https before it, it means any data you enter on this website is not secure.

The padlock icon and “https” at the start of the URL indicates that the website has an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, the most basic yet effective encryption a website has to offer.

Vet the Website

If you’ve found something you just ‘have’ to buy at an unfamiliar website, put your (virtual) sherlock hat on and do some sleuthing. Look for signs that prove they’re an actual business.

Do they have a brick and mortar address? A valid phone number or email you can use to contact them? Is their customer service responsive? Do they have a social media following they interact with regularly? Do they update their blog? What do customers say about them on review sites like Yelp and TrustPilot?

Finally, search for the business on Better Business Bureau and see what rating they’ve given it, if any.

Avoid Shopping on Public Wi-Fi

Avoid shopping on a public Wi-Fi like at all costs. Public wireless is widely known to be insecure and any information you enter on a website while using it — even if it has an SSL certificate — is extremely vulnerable. A hacker using the same Wi-Fi can easily steal your info.

Your smartphone is just as much at risk when using a public Wi-Fi. Don’t connect your phone to a public Wi-Fi if you have any apps that store your financial data (like credit card and bank account details).

Use a VPN

If you simply can’t resist the siren’s call i.e. sales on your favourite stores while sipping your latte macchiatos, then make sure to set up a VPN on your phone.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts the connection between your smartphone or computer and the internet, thus making it incredibly difficult for hackers prowling the same public Wi-Fi to steal your data.

Wondering which VPN service to use? NordVPN comes highly recommended.

Create Strong Passwords

You’d be surprised how many people use basic passwords (like 12345678 or abcdefgh). For the love of the online shopping Gods, don’t be that person! If you are, we’ll wait while you go change your password RIGHT NOW.

Oh and while you’re doing that, don’t use the same password for all your accounts. If there’s a security breach in one of your accounts, all of your other accounts will be compromised too.

Inquisitive Websites are NOT Your Friends

If a website is overly ‘friendly’ and asks for your birth date (because they “want to send you gift/discount cards!”), your mother’s maiden name (because they “want to send an email inviting your mother!”) or worse – your social insurance number (because friends tell each other everything, right? Wrong!) it means they’re phishing in an attempt to steal your identity. Get out of that site ASAP!

At Rakuten, we only need your name and address to send you your Cash Back cheques (via PayPal) or your mailing address if you choose to receive your Big Fat Cheque in the mail. The only other information we might ask you is about your favourite stores so we could make your experience at Rakuten even more awesome. And, just a heads’ up – we would never ask for your bank account details, SIN or other sensitive information!

Pay with Your Credit Card

Always pay with your credit card. Never pay with your debit card because it’s directly linked to your bank account. A security breach might result in the hackers cleaning out your bank account.

Most major credit cards offer 100% coverage of any fraudulent activity on your card. Whereas debit card fraud might not be reimbursed at all by the issuer (depending on certain circumstances and conditions).

Check Your Statements After You’ve Shopped Online

Don’t wait for your credit card statements to show up at the end of the month to review your buying history. Go online and access your account’s digital bank statement to keep an eye on your buying history at least once a week to make sure there’s no fraudulent activity.

You can even activate email and text alerts whenever your card is charged, this way if there’s a charge on your card you didn’t make and you’ll know instantly.   

Even though these guidelines might not look like much, but they go a long way in protecting your financial information online.

Just be cyber savvy and let those online shopping sprees continue. Because we all need a retail therapy every now and then! At least you’ll feel better knowing you shopped safely and scored some great deals (& Cash Back!)

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