Shopping online – staying safe against identity theft

Shopping online can be a convenient alternative to purchasing something in person from a shop. However, it poses more opportunities for your identity to be compromised – and maybe even stolen. Here are some ways in which you can protect yourself against identity theft when buying something over the internet.

The basics

  • Always ensure that your digital device is protected
    Whether you’re using a desktop computer, tablet, smartphone or other device to get online, make sure that you have anti-malware in place. This will help to protect you against a variety of online security threats.
  • Be careful when shopping online using wireless networks
    If you’re using a private Wi-Fi network, make sure that it’s only accessible using a strong password. If you have to use a public network, you may want to access the web using a virtual private network (VPN) connection, which sends data securely through the Internet.
  • Shopping on mobile
    If you’re shopping on a mobile phone, you may find it safer to shop using apps belonging to reputable retailers. This is because hackers are less likely to focus their efforts on individual apps.

On the shopping website

  • Use familiar and verified websites
    Shop on trustworthy websites that have a good security track record when it comes to security. When in doubt, research these sites – but bear in mind that not all reviewers may be genuine. Generally speaking, e-commerce sites that are widely used are likely to be more reputable.
  • Make sure the site is secure
    Use shopping websites that have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. To tell whether a website has this installed, look at the URL – it should begin with 'https://' instead of 'http://' and will typically have a lock icon nearby. Where the lock appears will depend on your browser.
  • Select separate and strong passwords
    Don’t use the same passwords for different online shopping websites. When selecting a password, make sure that it’s strong, to lessen the chances of anyone else being able to crack it. Find out how to create a secure password here.
  • Don’t save your payment information on the website
    No matter how safe a shopping website may seem, try not to save your payment information on it for later use. If the site is compromised by fraudsters, they could get access to this information.
  • Don’t share unnecessary personal data, either
    Some online retailers may ask for your birthday to be able to better tailor their services to you, or perhaps to offer you birthday offers. However, if hackers gain access to this data, they’ll have personal information about you that could potentially be used to impersonate you online.

Elsewhere on the internet

  • Beware phishing emails
    Phishing emails are sent by fraudsters who want to access your personal data. These emails may look like they are from reputable retailers.
  • Try not to overshare on social media
    It may be tempting to tell your friends anything online, like your birthday or home address. However, depending on your privacy settings, other people may be able to view this information too. When you are posting something on social media, stop and consider if the information is best left private.

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