7 Tips for Safe Online Shopping


It's December. We're unwrapping presents; millions of presents at once. More often we are ordering online. December is a bleak month, so doing Christmas shopping online with a cup of coffee in hand seems like the best option. But how do you protect yourself from fraud? Or protect yourself from cyber criminals shopping with your money? Here are 7 tips to ensure your online shopping experience remains festive!

Tip 1. Be Careful for Suspect web addresses

One of the first indications of a secure web shop is in the URL box of your browser. You may see the name of a familiar company there. But double check there isn't a reference such as '-sale', '-deals' or '-discount' in the address. A lot of the time these point to a false web shop run by scammers. If you are ever unsure then check out the reviews of the web shop, for example comparison sites. If you read enough negative feedback about people losing their money, then you know enough.

Tip 2. Shop Around

So, after checking the website address there were no alarm bells ringing. Great! But there is still room for caution. Look around and see whether you trust the web shop, before you put an item in your basket. Is the website neat? Are the prices of the articles in the right price range, and not artificially cheap? Logos or guarantees on websites can provide some of the extra assurance you need.

Tip 3. Look for Contact Information

For web shops there are legal requirements. The address of the company, contact details, VAT number and the Chamber of Commerce number will be visible. Are you just seeing an email address or chat button? You can just take it that there is something about this web shop that isn't right. Look for the details.

Tip 4. Read the Terms and Conditions

As an online shopper you have rights. Web shops must handle your personal details with care. A privacy statement should be available, explaining how your details are handled according to legal requirements. Also be sure to check the general terms, such as payment terms. Before you pay for items check the total amount, therefore, check if the price is including taxes, delivery costs and other costs like packaging.

Tip 5. Make Use of a Secure Website

So, you have enough assurances available that the web shop is real. But you aren't out of the woods yet. Cyber criminals can still run off with your data, and definitely if you are providing sensitive information like your personal details, password or credit card details. Be certain that you are using a secured website. In the URL box of the website address you should see 'https' instead of 'http'. In lots of browsers you will also see a small padlock icon. If you click on the padlock you can view the certificate of the website and check it.

Tip 6. Paying Safely

You can choose from many different methods to pay online. Every method has its advantages and disadvantages. In The Netherlands we use iDEAL, which directs you to your own bank during the transaction. With this method it isn't possible to pay after you have received the item, so getting your money back is sometimes difficult. AfterPay offers the possibility of paying once your goods are received in good order. With PayPal you can take a certain degree of assurance and benefit from payment protection. It's always handy to save the confirmation of your payment and order, or print it off. By doing this you can check the payment against your bank statement.

Tip 7. Not Happy? Send it Back

As an online shopper you have the right to return your purchase without reason. In The Netherlands you have 14 days “thinking” time, like a cooling-off period. For example, you neatly unpack some clothes you purchase online, you try them on, and they don't fit. You can send them back. Of course, you can't really use items like shoes, jumpers and jackets in 14 days. There are also items you cannot return, such as perishables, items especially made to your requirements, or CDs and DVDs where you have broken the security seal. Always check the return policy.

Already done your shopping? Read my blog about tips for online privacy.