Online shopping

Online shopping is one of the best aspects of modern life. Being able to find what you want, when you want, from the comfort of your own home is genius. Even online shopping isn’t without its risks, but what are they?

Online shopping is fantastic. It’s incredibly convenient; you can find and buy almost anything you want, from fridges to groceries to put in them. With services like Amazon Prime you can have your items the very next day guaranteed.

What could possibly be wrong with something so perfect? Well, like anything on the internet there are inherent risks: particularly when it comes to moving money.

How can I shop safer?

First things first, be sure that the site you are purchasing from is reputable and trusted. Has a friend recommended them? Are they well known and well trusted? Certain websites provide user feedback about other sites, what is the site rating? What are people saying about your online store of choice?

If you’re confident that the site is legitimate then shop away. Remember that even Amazon and eBay were new websites once, new and unfamiliar does not inherently mean bad. But wait! What about when it comes to actually paying? Is there anything that you should be looking out for?

Making payments online?

Once you’ve filled up your basket with all the wonderful goodies you can find, it’s time to pay. But what should you be looking out for on the payment side of things? The big indicators of a secure payment page are having a padlock and seeing https:// rather than just http://, in the address bar.

The padlock appears when you attempt to login or register; the ‘s’ literally stands for secure. If you can confirm that the payment page is all above board then go ahead and buy your goods. But wait! What payment method are you using? Are there any hidden costs snuck in at the end?

Methods of payment?

Quite often banks and credit card agencies will recommend that you make payments online using a credit card, as opposed to your actual bank card. This is because you are protected by the Consumer Credit Directive: meaning that your card provider and the product supplier are equally liable for any purchase you make. Basically this means that if a product you purchase is faulty or not as described then you have another way to get your money back.

Using a credit card also means that you aren’t using your actual debit card: the card with your banks sort code, account number etc. on it. Credit Cards and online payment services like PayPal and WorldPay also put another barrier between your bank account and the outside word.

If I’m making a payment to a person or site that I’m not 100% sure about then I’ll always use PayPal: that way if the item doesn’t arrive or isn’t as described I know that PayPal will fight my corner and help get me my money back.

Once you have chosen your payment method be sure to double and triple check before clicking the order button: some websites might try to sneak in extra tax, postage or charge you for using a certain payment type. As a general tip I always double check my billing and delivery address at this point as well, you don’t want to accidently send it to your old address. Be sure to keep an eye on your bank statements as well.

Should I stay logged in?

Absolutely not. Generally speaking online stores like eBay, Amazon and many others will ask you to log in before actually making a purchase, but leave you logged in when you are browsing the store: this is so that they can better target adverts to you or remind you what you were looking at last time.

Other services such as google wallet, Amazon 1-click and iTunes can be used to make quick purchases without the need to re-enter your login details, if you’ve entered them once already. Services like these use “one-click” purchasing to streamline the online shopping process: using a predefined payment method and address you can complete a purchase in “one-click”.

That’s all well and good, but what if you lend your iPad to a friend, or even your child, and forget to log out? Then they wouldn’t need your log in details to be able to charge to your account through these services. Back in 2011 an eight-year-old managed to rack up a whopping $1400 (about £850) on in-app purchases in Smurfs’ Village via the Apple App Store.