Online shoppers: 7 security tips to shop with peace of mind

Online shoppers: 7 security tips to shop with peace of mind
PHOTO: iStock

Many Singaporeans turn to their computers and mobile devices for their shopping fix as online shopping offers convenience, variety and great discounts. According to a 2015 survey conducted by Mastercard, 78 per cent of Singaporeans (aged 18 to 65 years old) polled made an online transaction in the three months leading up to the survey.

However, despite being avid online shoppers, the survey revealed that 77 per cent of the Singaporeans polled are cautious about transacting online.

As Chinese New Year approaches, many of us will likely search online for some great deals and designs to usher in the Year of the Rooster in style.

By adhering to a few easy measures, you can keep your transactions safe and secure. For greater confidence when shopping online, here are seven tips that will allow you to shop safely, smartly and freely.

1. Shop only by connecting to secure Wi-Fi networks

Photo: iStock

Whether you are shopping at home or on the go, make it a habit to do it only while using a private Wi-Fi network that requires a password or your mobile data. Private networks are safer and less susceptible to hacking.

For an additional layer of security, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN connection ensures that your internet connection is encrypted, making it difficult for hackers to pry and access your personal data.

2. Only shop on secure websites

Thankfully, most web browsers today have in-built features to verify secure websites and flag unsafe ones, so it is easy for us to discern if it is safe to shop.

Photo: iStock

Before you submit any credit card information on a website, look out for the lock symbol, found either at the bottom status bar or right next to the URL. Or, check if the URL starts with https:// rather than http://.

These clues show that the website is safely encrypted by SSL (secure sockets layer) and is a safe environment to conduct online transactions.

3. Shop at trusted sellers

Before shopping at a new site, make sure you check the merchant's reputation by looking up online consumer reviews, buyer ratings and customer support forums.

Phishing websites are designed to look similar to official websites and typically require you to fill in forms in hopes of getting your personal information.

Always check for suspicious spelling variations in the URL - they may look like typo errors, but they give clear indication that you are browsing on a phishing site. Do not proceed browsing if you suspect that it might be a phishing site.

4. Ensure you are downloading trustworthy apps

There are also phishing apps that are designed to look exactly like those of well-known retailers. Usually, they entice you with fake deals in order to steal personal information.

Guard against buying from false app platforms by only downloading those that are backed by user reviews.

Or, if you want to download the app for a particular online retailer, visit its website first. If the retailer has an official app, follow the download link directly from the website.

5. Use a credit card equipped with one-time-password (OTP) and SMS alerts

Photo: iStock

When making payment online, using credit cards with security features offers a higher level of anti-fraud protection.

For instance, Mastercard is equipped with SecureCode, which sends a one-time-password (OTP) via SMS when you check out your online purchases. This extra step verifies that you are the one making the purchase, giving you an additional layer of security.

Register your mobile to be notified with an SMS alert whenever you make a transaction to safeguard against unauthorised purchases.

6. Create strong passwords

If you're someone who shops on multiple sites, having a different password for each site minimizes the risk of your personal information getting compromised should any one site get hacked.

Make sure that each password is strong with at least eight characters and a combination of numbers and letters.

7. Check your credit card statements regularly

Thanks to the "zero liability policy" of most credit card issuers, you can dispute and reverse unauthorised charges - provided you catch them in time.

Keep your guard up against fraudulent charges by checking your credit card statements regularly. If there are suspicious debiting amounts that you cannot identify, notify your bank immediately.

You can avoid issues by taking control of your online transactions by implementing these seven tips.

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This advertorial is brought to you by Mastercard. Read more about Mastercard's security features.

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