How to shop safe online
All the indicators are that online shopping is here to stay. It is now considered to be mainstream because more than half of the once tech-resistant generation (aged 65 and over) shop online. And the numbers are huge: in 2017, £586 billion was spent in e-commerce sales alone, and every year consumers buy more online and less from the High Street.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the January sales all tempt us into parting with our hard-earned cash. This coupled with the cold winter months makes it easy to see why so many of us are going online.
All this online shopping means that huge amounts of money is moving around electronically, and a new type of criminal has developed to take advantage of this lucrative and active market: the cybercriminal. In 2017 – the same year that we spent £586 billion online – 17 million of us were victims of cybercrime, with around £130 billion being stolen.
Shopping online is mostly very safe these days, with banks and businesses offering secure payments and strong guarantees. However, cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated all the time as it attempts to keep pace.
So how can we stay safe shopping online during the busy winter months? Just as when shopping in the real world, being vigilant and aware are the two biggest ways to stay safe when shopping online.
• Buy through reputable websites. If you’re keen to support local craftspeople and small businesses, ensure they’re selling online through a secure platform.
• Be vigilant against fraudsters. Cybercrime can come in many forms and is more sophisticated than ever. The days of obvious scams in ‘phishing’ emails – emails purporting to be from reputable companies that try to get the recipient to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers – are on the decline. The new threats are links in SMS text messages, for example, that can instantly download viruses or ransomware onto a mobile phone. Hackers use statistics to predict behaviour – for example, less than a quarter of all emails are opened, compared to 98% of text messages. If you’re using mobile phones to input bank details and do online shopping, this is a potential vulnerability. Be aware, be safe.
• Keep any internet-enabled devices up to date. Software updates often address new security issues and so are incredibly important. Make sure your anti-virus software is run regularly.
• Check the URL. Domain names that start in ‘https’ rather than just ‘http’ have inbuilt security – the extra ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Many browsers show a padlock symbol in the address bar when a site is secure.
• Don’t input any sensitive data to any programme or app when using public Wi-Fi. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security - public Wi-Fi is vulnerable to attack. Do it at home, or, if that’s not possible, use your private mobile data package.
• Practice good password hygiene. Choose strong passwords, change them regularly, keep them private, and don’t use the same password for all your accounts. It’s easy to do, but it’s human nature to make passwords as easy as possible so we can remember them – the first UK Cyber Survey this year found that the most-used password from global cyber breaches was "123456."
Al Rayan Bank takes online safety very seriously and this is why we’ve published a series of tips showing you how to keep safe online. You can find out more here