When you shop online, make sure you are smart about the whole purchasing process—know who you are dealing with, know what you are buying, be confident you will get what you have paid for, and ensure that your account and credit card details are being dealt with safely.
Most shoppers know the warning signs to look for when buying something in a shop—the same applies to shopping online. Here are 11 tips to help with safe transacting online:
Keep Operating System and Application Software up to date: The single largest vulnerability to your computer to cyber attack is outdated software or operating systems. Web browsers, operating systems and application software such as PDF readers require regular security patches. Turn on automatic updates so your software will notify you of the latest fixes and install them when they are available.
Maintain a full, up to date Internet Security suite - Traditional anti-virus protection is no longer enough to combat the range of cyber threats that are out there. Firewall and anti spyware, combined with anti-virus software are vital when putting your personal and financial details online. Free services are available.
Consider your Search Engine results carefully - When searching for products online examine your search results carefully before clicking a link. Don't assume that the top results are the best as cyber criminals can use search engine optimisation techniques to lure you to an infected site.
Is the business legitimate? - Make certain the site you are visiting is well presented and relevant to what you are searching for. Apply caution, look for errors and don't be led down fake links. Does the website look suspicious or unprofessional? Are they offering bargains which look too good to be true? Are you confident about the use of your information or that you will get what you pay for?
Be wary of outrageous claims in online advertisements - Banners, links and special offers can be created by cyber criminals with the sole purpose of attracting you to an infected site.
Know your seller as well as you can - Regardless of whether you are purchasing via a well known retail brand or an unknown operator you should take the time to discover as much about the seller and their terms and conditions as you can. If you are purchasing from a retail site, record the outlet’s physical address and phone number, if available, so you can readily contact them if needed. If purchasing via an auction site, it will have some form of reputation monitoring system to confirm the seller’s trustworthiness.
Look for the https:// site security indicator - Only pay via a secure web page (one that has a valid digital certificate)—look for the https at the beginning of the address bar and a locked padlock in the browser. A closed padlock and green background will confirm that the site uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to scramble the data before it is sent over the Internet. It is important to note that SSL only ensures that the data is encrypted and does not guarantee that the recipient will use it legitimately.
Choose a strong password and use different passwords for different sites – When registering with a site before purchasing an item, use a strong password. A strong password should ideally consist of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. Be creative and invent passwords that are easy to remember – they don't have to look complex and random to be secure, as long as they are at least 10 characters (and preferably more) in length. Avoid using common words, or names such as pets, football teams, street addresses or members of your family. It is worth the effort to use different passwords for each site you purchase from as it immediately pays for itself if any site becomes compromised.
Credit or debit card for online shopping? - Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card (avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse). Set up a credit card with a low limit for online transactions. Never send your bank or credit card details via email—only via a secure web page.
Keep receipts and check statements - Save a PDF or print a copy of every tax invoice or payment receipt that online vendors are required to provide. Don't assume the vendor will send an email, so collect all documents at the first opportunity. Check each purchase on your bank statement for any hidden costs or erroneous billing.
E-card, email and links
If you receive a Festive Season e-card, email or link in a social networking site, you need to be careful. Before opening any emails or attachments, be sure you know the source.
If you receive an email or link that is suspicious, don't reply, don't open any attachment and don't click on any links. Doing so may result in malicious software or a virus being installed on your online device.
A good rule of thumb is, if you’re unsure of who’s sending an email, link or e-card, delete it!
For more information on security patches, as they’re released, subscribe to the free Alert Service.
For more information on how to secure your online device visit: http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/home_internet_users/secure_your_computer