Buying from internet has many advantages: lower prices, products that are hard to find in your city or country, sending gifts to those who live far away...
Probably you are already accessing your bank account through your bank website in order to check receipts, to make bank transfers, etc. Then... why don't you buy from Internet?
There are many justified reasons to be cautious when buying from internet, and perhaps that is the reason why you are still one of those reluctant to shop online. But following the recommendations that we explain in this article, you will be able to take advantage of e-commerce with more confidence.
Safer cards to shop online
One of the major obstacles to starting to buy online is the feeling of insecurity when you have to provide your credit card details through internet. But this has a simple solution.
For many years now, there are prepaid cards to shop online available. Every bank may call them slightly different: virtual cards, cyber cards, e-cards, … Despite their name, they are Visa or MasterCard cards which can usually be used only to shop online. The main advantage is that they are prepaid cards. That is, instead of associating the balance of your bank account to the card, these cards are only responsible for the amount that you have charged previously and that is currently left in the card.
The safest way to proceed is charging the card with the value of your next purchase, just before buying. Then you buy, and the card will have only the remaining amount, which will be minimum or zero. This way, if at some point your card were a victim of fraud, the only money put at risk will be the balance that card had at that moment.
Ask your bank office what types of prepaid cards they can offer you, and check the terms and conditions.
Paypal, more security for your online payments
Paypal is a veteran service for online payments, and probably the payment method most commonly used around the world. Most of the online shops, though not all of them, will allow you to pay your purchases through Paypal. But, how does Paypal work?
As a buyer, if you register on www.paypal.com, you will create your Paypal user account, and you will enter your credit or debit card details. When you purchase from an online shop and you pay using Paypal, the seller will not have access to your card details, only Paypal will, which is much safer.
If you also have a prepaid card to shop online, as we told you above, you will be able to use it with Paypal and so you will get double protection. Neither the seller nor Paypal will have access to your ordinary credit or debit cards and, therefore, your bank account will never be exposed.
Your rights as a consumer in online shops
First of all, remember that all the rights you have when buying from a retail store you will also have when shopping online. Keep in mind too that when shopping online inside the European Union you have 14 days for returns and refunds if you have just changed your mind, without having to give any explanation to the seller and without having to pay any penalty.
Some online shops extend those rights, giving you more than 14 days for returns, and making all the process of return shipping easy for you. The clear information that the seller gives you about all this, may be an indication of the reliability of their online shop.
10 basic security practices
Very likely you already do important things on the internet (managing your bank account through your bank website, performing procedures with the public administration using your digital certificate, etc.). So whether you shop online or not, you should take the following recommendations into account:
- Keep your operating system and your web browser up to date. Usually you should have automatic updates enabled.
- Specially if you use Windows as your operating system, install a good antivirus and keep it always up to date. Keep in mind that many of the antivirus that offer a free version don't include specific internet protections that are included in their paid versions.
- Do not use Wifi networks that are open (the ones that don't ask you for a password to connect) in order to do important tasks (managing your bank account, shopping online, etc.).
- Do not use Wifi networks that are public, even if they ask for a password to connect, as in coffeeshops, hotels, etc. in order to do important tasks (managing your bank account, shopping online, etc.). If you have a mobile data connection, use it instead.
- Always logout. When you enter your user name and your password onto your email, or your bank website, or in an online shop, you will see a link with names such as “logout”, “sign out” and the like. Use it when you have finished with what you were doing on that website.
- Do not use the same password for everything. Set a password for your email, another different password for your bank, another different one for each online shop, etc.
- Never ever give your bank account or credit card details by email. If somebody asks you for that, it is probably for a fraudulent use. Neither your bank nor any serious online shop will ask you to send them your bank account or credit card details via email. And, of course, under no circumstances reveal your passwords.
- If you use your mobile or tablet, enable the access code (look for it in settings), and do not install apps that are not trusted.
- If you use a computer, set a user password. Do not install applications which are not trusted, nor browse websites that might not be trustworthy. If due to work or entertainment needs you have to try applications or websites, or if you have children, use another computer for those other tasks, or at least create a virtualization in the same computer for all the other uses.
- Use only webs with secure communications for important tasks, that is, those websites which start with https:// (note the “s”) instead of http://. Generally, a padlock icon will appear on your web browser.
5 basic recommendations for shopping online
- Follow all the basic security practices as we told you above.
- Get a prepaid card, as we told you in this same article.
- Create a Paypal account, and associate your prepaid card.
- Just as you would do in a retail store, make sure you only buy from trusted online shops. If it is not a well-known online shop, preferably use Paypal as your payment method. Check that that online shop provide a customer service phone and that they have a postal address, and try to make a phone call to get a first impression. Search on the internet for other user reviews, and if there are many negative comments, distrust.
- Before confirming the payment, check carefully all your order details: products, quantities, shipping cost, taxes. Serious online shops will show all that clearly. And remember that if you are inside the European Union and you buy from a non-EU country, you might have to pay import fees even if they are not reflected at the moment of purchasing.
If you have any questions or suggestions about shopping online, feel free to leave your comments below.
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