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Are You Keeping Your Data Safe When Shopping Online?

Are You Keeping Your Data Safe When Shopping Online - online shopping

When looking for the next sofa, sweater, kitchen appliance, or even an attorney, one of the first places we go to shop is online. Over the last ten years, our shopping experiences have heavily shifted out of heading to the typical mall or shopping plaza and have morphed into staying home and shopping online via websites, mobile apps, and, in some cases, social media. According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce E-commerce, sales topped $1.03 trillion in 2022. While our shopping habits have changed to make it more convenient for us, that doesn’t mean we are entirely safe from being scammed. 

According to estimates, e-commerce losses to online payment fraud were estimated at 48 billion U.S. dollars globally in 2023. While the number may continue to grow in 2024, we believe you still have the chance to keep your online shopping experience safe from those who would wish to cause you harm. Below, we’ve broken down the ways you can keep yourself safe while shopping online.


You Can Stay Safe While Shopping Online

While you are less likely to have your purse or wallet swiped, it doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of being robbed. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2022, it reported over 2.4 million consumers were scammed. Of those 2.4 million, a whopping 71.6% of those reported were linked to online shopping scams. The risk increases even more if you are not careful with where you shop; according to the AARP, as reported in 2022, 77% of scams are now happening on social media, online marketplaces, and, in some cases, dating apps.

In order to keep yourself safe while shopping online, below we’ve broken down a few essential practices you should keep in mind to help you stay safe from scammers.

Secure Your Network

Browsing the shops online should be a fun and stress-free experience. However, if you’re not securing your network, you may be opening up your browser to malicious attacks. The best way to ensure your online shopping experience is safe from scammers or malware is to ensure you’ve secured your network. A few ways you can secure your network at home include but are not limited to the following:

  • Keep your router in a central location.
  • Create a strong Wi-Fi password and change it often.
  • Turn on firewall and Wi-Fi encryption.
  • Create a guest network.
  • Verify connected devices.

When you are not at home, ensure you are on a secured network wherever you decide to connect online. The best way to know if you are connecting to a secured network is by verifying which connection is owned by the space you are visiting and checking to see if a password is required to connect online. Most networks will even include a popup warning you whether or not the service you are connecting to is secured. 

If the network is unsecured, ensure that you have the following safety features installed or in use on your laptop, phone, tablet, or other electronic gadget.

  • Install malware blockers.
  • Use antivirus software.
  • Connect to a “Virtual Private Network” (VPN).
  • Turn off “File Sharing”(Airdrop).
  • Turn off “auto-connect” for public Wi-Fi.
  • Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication.

If you are still unsure if your network is secure, contact your network provider for more information on what security features they offer or recommend for you to equip.


Do Not Trust Unknown Links

We’ve all gotten that same message online or via a text telling us to “sign up now” or “click here” for access to 10, 15, or even 50% off the latest new deal or product we’ve been eyeing online. Whether you arrived by this link on your email, random text chain, or even if a friend or loved one has sent you a link to an alleged shopping site, there is nothing wrong with having a little dose of skepticism. If you feel as though the link looks suspicious or is too good to be true, trust your instincts and do not open it.

Many scammers will create and send links to websites that may seem legitimate but are often fronts for them to steal your personal information by having you input your name, number, address, or credit card information when “checking out.” In some cases, the scammer may go as far as to send you a shipping/tracking number and even send you an item in the mail that looks similar to the product you thought you were buying, but in reality, it's all to keep you distracted as they commit fraud with your information.


Verify Before You Buy

Before you accept or send a payment, you’ll want to ensure you’ve taken the steps to verify the online shop is legitimate. Below, we’ve listed three critical checks you should do before hitting checkout.

  • Verify the website: Have you taken a moment to look around the website to make sure it’s the real deal? Look at the URL and check out the layout of the webpage. Are the product names or descriptions littered with grammatical errors? If something about the website seems off, then you may be shopping on a scammer site.
  • Evaluate the prices: We all love a good deal, but are we checking to see what the deal is with the price? While $20 Air Jordans may seem like a steal, you’ll want to compare the price with other retailers, or you may end up paying a lot more than you bargained for.
  • Read online reviews: Doing a little investigation into the seller may help you better understand if the site you are purchasing from is legitimate. Have others reported they’ve been scammed? Is anyone telling you to click out of the webpage? Use the information you find to help you decide if it’s worth taking the risk of shopping online. 

An extra tip when shopping online would be to use a credit card for your purchase. Credit cards typically offer better fraud protection, which makes them more secure to use online. If you have gone through all the checks, and you still are unsure whether or not the online store is real, trust your instincts and shop elsewhere.


Important Tips To Keep Your Data Safe

With the rise of e-commerce, cybercriminals are always finding new ways to exploit everyone in the industry. Sometimes, we forget how quick and easy it can be for hackers to access our personal data when we are shopping online. In some cases, it can happen in less than two clicks. As their methods become increasingly more advanced, you’ll need to ensure you are staying up to date with the latest security software and practices to help keep yourself safe while browsing the web.

Of the tips we’ve mentioned before, here are the ones we believe you should always keep on hand, even when you’re not shopping online. 

  • Use “Two Factor Authentication”
  • Create strong passwords
  • Turn on your “Privacy Settings”
  • Do not give your login info
  • Monitor your bank accounts

In the event you or someone you know has fallen victim to an online scammer, you can report the fraudulent activity to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov. Unfortunately, everyday people can fall victim to scams or hackers when online shopping, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and take it. If you believe your information has been stolen online, or if you suspect an online store may be fraudulent, we may be able to help you. Connect with a Morgan & Morgan attorney today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form.