AI for retail

How to stay safe while shopping online? Risks and tips!

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of online shopping platforms. According to eMarketer, global retail eCommerce sales are forecasted to reach $8.15 trillion by 2026.

Online retailers offer a variety of convenient features, including streamlined checkout processes and fast shipping options, which have greatly improved the overall shopping experience for consumers.

Additionally, online stores offer a wide selection of products and flexible payment options, further enhancing the convenience of eCommerce shopping. Finally, the choice for easy returns adds a layer of comfort for the shoppers.

However, the need of the hour is to stay vigilant of the scams that target online shoppers. With the increase in consumer activities, cybercrimes have stirred substantial financial, personal, and confidential losses for companies across the globe. For example, 54% of consumers encountered suspicious online actions, of which 18% were mobile spam calls, 21% were scared of their credit card data being stolen, and 19% were sure their confidential data might have been hacked.

Is Online Shopping Safe?
For the most part, online shopping is safe. However, cybercriminals leverage social engineering to trick users into believing they’re making transactions on the right website, opening a legitimate email/email attachment, and using a secured public Wi-Fi.

Hackers often use tactics to trick users into divulging their information, leading to phishing scams, malicious advertisements, and infected websites. Online payment fraud is estimated to be 42% in North America,4% in Latin America, 26% in West Europe, 3% in Central and East Europe, 3% in Africa and the Middle East, and 22% in Asia.

Moreover, a cyber attack can result not only in financial repercussions but also in the theft of sensitive and confidential data, including login credentials, financial information, and personal information.

With these risks, it’s only natural to wonder: is it even safe to continue online shopping? The answer is yes. Secure online shopping is possible even with malicious websites and cybercriminals doing the rounds.

By staying vigilant, being aware of the risks involved, and taking precautions, you can drastically reduce the chances of falling victim to these attacks.

7 Online Shopping Risks
Fake online stores
Hackers employ sophisticated tactics to deceive consumers, such as mimicking legitimate websites’ layouts, designs, and logos. They use this tactic to create a sense of trust and credibility to lure customers in with seemingly irresistible deals on electronics, clothing brands, and jewelry at greatly reduced prices.

However, these offers are often too good to be true, and customers are likely to either not receive their purchased products or receive fake or defective ones.

Data breaches
Online transactions necessitate sharing sensitive personal information, such as financial details, contact information, and addresses, while engaging in e-commerce. This information, if accessed by unauthorized parties, such as cybercriminals, through a data breach of an e-commerce website, can result in severe consequences, including the exposure and potential misuse of confidential information.

Unsecured Wi-Fi
Using unsecured Wi-Fi networks in public places poses a significant security risk. For example, when conducting online transactions, such as making payments, on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, it can provide an easy entry point for hackers to infiltrate your device and gain access to sensitive information or install malware.

The unsolicited ads on your screen while you browse the internet are called adware. It is a legitimate advertising software whose purpose is to generate revenue. But, hackers can use it for fraudulent activities like attracting users to malicious websites to obtain their personal information.

Phishing emails come across as genuine retailer emails, but are fake emails created by cybercriminals. They usually come with a link or an attachment tricking consumers into clicking them. Once that happens, a malware infection is released, and the hackers conveniently move around the network to acquire personal information.

Identity theft
When cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to e-commerce websites, they can steal sensitive information such as credit card or login details. This information can then be used for fraudulent purposes such as misusing your credit card for fraudulent purchases, selling your personal information on the dark web, or even impersonating you to commit identity fraud. As a result, global payment fraud is estimated to be $40.62 billion in 2027, a 25% increase over 2020.

Unencrypted data
If websites don’t have an updated SSL certificate, they don’t encrypt data and are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. So, websites whose URL starts with HTTP, instead of HTTPS, are usually not secure. As a result, it is a major risk to make payments online on such websites.

10 Tips for Staying Safe, While Shopping Online
Be cautious or avoid using public Wi-Fi
It is generally safe to use public Wi-Fi for basic internet browsing or checking emails and messages at public places such as restaurants, coffee shops, airports, or hotels. However, avoiding using public Wi-Fi for sensitive information, such as signing into private banking accounts or making online payments, is highly recommended.

Cybercriminals can easily hack into public Wi-Fi networks and monitor your online activities, potentially acquiring your login credentials. It is also advisable to avoid using public Wi-Fi in retail stores to check for deals online, as hackers often exploit this behavior to capture sensitive personal information. In these situations, it is best to use a mobile Internet connection.

Use a VPN
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when connected to public Wi-Fi provides an added layer of security by creating an encrypted tunnel for your device to communicate with the server.

This encryption makes it difficult for cybercriminals to intercept or view your online activities, including clicks and personal information. VPNs can also help hide your IP address, making it harder for hackers to track your online movements or location. Therefore, using a VPN is highly recommended when using public Wi-Fi to ensure the security of sensitive information and online activities.

Create unique passwords
One of the most effective measures for maintaining online security is using unique and strong passwords. Banks and other financial institutions often require customers to change their passwords periodically as a security measure. While this may be inconvenient, it is an essential step in protecting your accounts from unauthorized access.

It is also recommended to change passwords for all your accounts, not just financial ones, regularly. Using a password manager can also be a helpful tool to generate complex and hack-proof passwords for your accounts, and it can also keep track of all your different passwords for you.

Use debits cards sparingly
When conducting online transactions, it is generally safer to use credit cards or secure payment gateways such as PayPal instead of debit cards. Credit cards offer an added layer of protection as they are not directly linked to your bank account. In addition, in the event of a fraudulent transaction, credit card companies are known to investigate the matter promptly and reverse the charge, providing consumers with additional peace of mind.

Don’t be generous with your card details
Your credit card details are sensitive information that should only be shared with trusted and reputable sources. It is crucial to ensure that your website is secure by checking for the padlock icon and “https” in the web address before making a purchase.

Additionally, reviewing your credit card statements for any unauthorized charges regularly and reporting any suspicious activity to your credit card issuer immediately is important. This will help to mitigate potential financial losses and protect your sensitive information.

Shop with retailers you know and trust
Shopping with retailers you know and trust is a key factor in ensuring the safety of your personal and financial information. Avoiding unfamiliar or untested retailers reduces the risk of fraud or unauthorized access to your sensitive information. Always do your research before making a purchase, and only shop with reputable and established retailers.

Check padlock in URL bar
Check for the padlock in the URL bar, which is a sign of a secure website The padlock icon in the URL bar is generally a good indicator of a secure website. This is because the website uses a safe method to encrypt the data you send or receive. This can help protect your personal and financial information from being intercepted by third parties.

Monitor your bank statements
Regularly monitoring your bank statements is important in protecting your financial information and detecting any unauthorized or fraudulent activity on your account. Therefore, it is advisable to review your bank statements regularly, such as weekly or monthly. This will allow you to quickly identify any suspicious transactions and take the necessary steps to report them to your bank.

Opt for a virtual credit card
A virtual credit card can be a useful tool for enhancing online security. Some credit card issuers offer this service, allowing you to create a temporary card number linked to your account.

This temporary number can be used for online transactions, rather than providing the seller with your credit card details. This can be a great way to protect your credit card information, as it makes it harder for cybercriminals to access your account. It’s also a good idea to check with your credit card issuer if they offer this service, and if they don’t, consider using a third-party virtual credit card service that can offer this feature.

Set up a two-step verification
Two-step verification is an additional security measure that can protect your accounts from cybercriminals. You will be required to provide a code sent to your phone or email address along with your password that ensures a secure login.

Shopping online can be a convenient and enjoyable experience if proper precautions are taken to protect your personal and financial information. By taking steps such as using secure websites, using credit cards or secure payment gateways, and regularly monitoring your bank statements, you can greatly reduce the risk of fraud or unauthorized access to your sensitive information. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your online shopping experience is both safe and enjoyable.

— Shibu Paul, VP, International Sales, Array Networks.

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