Online shopping is now so convenient that you don’t need to leave your house for anything. It’s so easy to order everything, from CDs and TVs to your weekly groceries, that you can sometimes forget the dangers lurking in the darker corners of the internet.
Don’t worry, though. Once you’ve read through our guide to securing your PC, you’ll have all the info you need to tighten up your security without the worry of being scammed. Now, you just need to follow these simple steps to make sure your internet shopping experience is a safe and secure one.
1. Use a computer you trust
Ideally, you should only do your online banking and shopping on your own computer. If you’re out and about with your laptop, and connected via another wireless network, make sure the network is encrypted to keep your personal details private. You can check this by clicking on the wireless network icon in the Taskbar Notification area and rolling the mouse over the network you're connected to. Make sure the security type is WPA2 , WPA or WEP . If it's unsecured, don't use it - wait until you get home.
2. Don’t get ‘phished’
Be suspicious of emails you receive claiming to be from banks or shops, especially any that ask you to click a link to the website (this is usually to ‘verify’ your login details). The link might look genuine, but it’s easy to fake a link and it’s not worth the risk. Instead, open your web browser and type the name of the website you want to visit manually, such as www.pcworld.co.uk.
3. Verify the website
Internet Explorer 9 uses ‘smart-screening’ technology to check that the website you’re visiting is genuine. If you have a security program like Norton, Kasperksy or AVG installed, these will also scan the website and let you know if the site is fake. You can also check the toolbar in your browser, which will let you know if the site is safe. If it’s not there, install the free Web of Trust add-on , which gives you traffic-light ratings for websites. Sites rated green are safe to visit, but avoid sites rated amber or red.
4. Check out the site brand
Do you trust the vendor? If it’s a big name like Currys, Advent or PC World, then fine. But what about an online-only shop? Look for contact details and make sure there’s a UK address and a landline phone number listed somewhere. If a Company Registration number is listed, you can check it out at the Companies House website. Never give out your personal details to a site that doesn’t have a phone number and address.
5. Make sure it’s secure
When you register or sign in to your account, or when you click the 'checkout' button to buy something, look at the address bar on your browser. The site address should now begin 'https://', which indicates a secure connection. A padlock symbol should also appear and you can click this to check details about how secure the site is. Make sure it says the site is encrypted, and click 'View Certificate' to get more details if you’re still unsure.
6. More safety tips
Finally, protect your online accounts with strong, unique passwords that can’t be easily guessed. Use a mixture of letters and numbers and try substituting numbers for letters (such as 5 for S, or 3 for E) to make the password harder to crack.