Secure sites will have a little padlock or unbroken key symbol displayed by your browser. Depending which browser you use, the padlock might appear at the bottom of the window, or in the address bar where web URLs are displayed. The lock symbol is important, it means your financial details will be encrypted (scrambled) so they can’t be read by anybody while in transit. The padlock means your credit card information is safe while it makes the journey from your computer to the website’s servers.
The start of the URL will change from http://to https:// if you are shopping over a secure connection. The extra ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. This might not appear until you reach the payment stage, or view the contents of your electronic trolley or basket.
It can be great finding a bargain or a cool product on a random website you’ve never heard of, but it’s always best to use well-known, trusted websites if you can. Search for user reviews or comments on other sites. If the site you’re looking at has caused problems for other people, you’ll soon be able to find out about them.
Watch out for sneaky misspellings to fool you, Amaz0n, anyone? – and websites that don’t use the classic domains like .com and .co.uk.
We all love free WiFi to save our pitiful data allowance but these connections aren’t secure, so it’s best not to shop online with them. If you’re entering any details at all with public WiFi, make sure they’re not saved. Don’t tick that ‘remember me’ box and be sure to log out instead of just closing the browser.
For purchases over £100, it may be better to use a credit card, rather than a debit card because you get additional protection if the organisation fails to deliver your goods. You will be protected against credit card fraud in most cases.
A good site will give you full details about delivery, refund policies and privacy agreements. There should also be contact details including full address and telephone number. Be particularly wary if there are no contact details, or if the postal address is just a PO box number.
If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you have a bad feeling about an online sale then don’t go through with it. If you think a site is OK, but you don’t think their security is good enough, make your purchase over the phone with a credit card.
Print off and keep a copy of the online confirmation of your order. It’s a bit like keeping your till receipts. Or, to save paper, create a folder in your email Inbox to keep all your confirmations in one place.
If you bank online then keep checking your account after you make an online purchase to make sure everything has gone smoothly. If the payment isn’t right then chase it up ASAP, even if it’s only by a tiny amount.
For more information on how to keep your money safe online, read our article here.