10 tips for Safe Online Shopping

by September 6, 2012

Vrinda K
Head Content
Spice Online Retail

In an age where time is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, shopping online has become a boon for many. Whether buying a railway ticket or ordering groceries, electronics items, cars, bikes,  and all you can remember can be bought online with a few mouse clicks nowadays. Though these ecommerce websites are designed, keeping in mind the ease of use and security of consumer’s data, caution is still advised while buying anything online due to faceless nature of transaction. Here we have listed some major tips for shopping online and minimise chances of online fraud. Keep reading to know more.

1.Always shop at trusted websites
With incidents of phishing on rise, it is always safer to do online financial transactions on a secure website. What do you mean by a secure website? Well, a secure website is the one which uses encrypted connection to carry your confidential information from your system to its own servers. Encrypting the information makes it virtually impossible for the probable hackers to read the contents of it. Even if they do manage to collect certain bits and parts of the data sent, it is very unlikely that they would be able to gather any meaningful data out of it without the possession of the encryption key.

Recognising whether a website is secure or not is fairly easy too. The normal websites use HTTP to connect you to website’s server, while the secure ones use HTTPS to do the same. Here, the extra “S” stands for secure connection. Most of the ecommerce websites deploy HTTPS connections once you reach their login page. Furthermore, a closed lock would appear besides the address bar of every secure website, highlighting its secure credentials. You can read further about the kind of encryption being used by the website and about certificate provider by clicking on this lock icon. www.saholic.com, www.makemytrip.com, and www.myntra.com are some of the examples of secure websites.

2.Research thoroughly before using an unknown ecommerce website
With so many ecommerce websites mushrooming everyday, it becomes difficult sometimes to keep note of genuine ones and resist their tempting offers. Many a times, it leads to online frauds too. Hence, it is always recommended to do a research on a new website before purchasing anything from it. You can also go for a low value order to test website’s performance and gauge its trustworthyness. It you feel a deal to be too attractive to believe, scan the Internet to check if anyone had any complaints regarding it. You can even check websites like Couponraja to see if there are any offers or deals available. By doing so you can also save money.

You can also check website’s “Contact Us” page to see if a genuine address has been provided or if the website lists any contact number. You can always call them to check their bona fides and enquire about the purchase process.

3.Read the web site’s privacy and security policy
Most of the e-commerce websites store the data being entered by you at the time of purchase, like your email id, your contact number etc. Overtly, this is very normal as the website is supposed to collect and retain your contact information for future reference and also to make it easier for you to buy again without you having to enter your details all over. But very few are aware of the security loophole it creates. Your stored contact information may be passed over to third parties without you even knowing or stolen from the company website by hackers if it is not stored in encrypted format.

Hence, you must know exactly what the website is doing with your personal data. Every genuine website hosts its privacy policy on its website, which spells out in detail their responsibilities in regard to your data. It is usually found in the “Privacy Policy” section of the website at the end of the webpage. You can also learn about the kind of information website is gathering or if it is placing cookies on you system.

Inspite of all these measures, there is no guarantee that your information won’t be leaked to a third party as policies are subject to change at little notice. So, reveal only that much information which you consider as less sensitive. For example, you can make a new email ID expressly for making online purchases, so even if that ID leaks, your work email won’t be getting flooded with spam.

4.Disclose only the bare facts when you order
Though you must provide some basic details like name, address, telephone number etc for shipping purposes to the website, the additional details like your likes/dislikes, brand preferences, annual income etc should best be avoided. Reason being, these kind of surveys are mostly used for telemarketing and profiling prospective customers. So, next time you are bombarded with call and emails offering products at amazing discounts, try to recognize the rouge website and don’t visit it again.

5.Keep your password private
This is the most common and most vital element to keep your online identity safe. Never reveal your password to anyone. Make sure that the password or answers to be security questions can’t be guessed easily by anyone.

6.Use credit cards
Though websites offer multiple payment gateways nowadays, ranging from credit/debit cards, net banking to cash on delivery. Consumers in India usually refrain from purchasing anything online because of strong retail buying culture, where people usually prefer to buy stuff physically from the market over cash transactions. To overcome this phenomenon, some ecommerce websites have now started to offer “Cash on Delivery” facility, which lets the consumer pay for the order at their doorstep. However, this system is also full of problems. What if you are delivered a package that contains fake or damaged goods? You obviously can’t open the package and check contents before making payment to the deliveryman. After making payment in hard cash, it becomes increasingly difficult to get refunds if you are shipped with spurious stuff.

Making purchases through credit cards is always a better option because you can always claim refund for dubious articles shipped to you. Also, no real money is credited from your account as the credit card is basically granting you a credit for making purchases, which you repay later. You can also go for a separate credit card for online shipping to keep a watch on your spending and checking fraud.

7.Double check the Web Site Address of ecommerce website and payment gateway
Always check the address of the ecommerce website and payment gateway in your web browser’s address bar before filling in your details. Avoid the temptation of clicking on the embedded links sent in the email as they may lead you to phishing attacks. You can also manually type the address on the website in a separate browser window to minimise risks.

8.Always print or save copies of your orders
Most of the e-commerce websites provide you with online receipts or order confirmation page after making a payment. It usually contains information of the product you ordered, your shipping details, and possibly the information about the payment you made along with the transaction ID of the same. Always keep a hard/soft copy of it with you for future reference. If the website confirmation page doesn’t carry this information, don’t panic. Check your email for an order confirmation mailer form the website. If should carry all the necessary information about your order. If you don’t receive any such mail from the website in a few hours, call the customer care to demand a copy of order reciept.

9.Pay attention to shipping facts
Note the delivery time stated by the website for your location and do enquire if the shipment doesn’t arrive on expected time. Thought the company is obliged to deliver your goods as per the stated time, it may get delayed due to logistic problem or some other unforeseen circumstances. To avoid hassles, do read the company disclaimer policy to know the process to follow if the goods are not delivered in time or if you can claim any losses you suffered in event of their non arrival.

Also enquire about the shipping charges; who is paying for it and whether the goods will be covered under shipping insurance. Do enquire about the warranty status of the product and who would be giving warranty on it, whether the manufacturer or seller. You can find this information in the product description page itself.

10.Read about company’s order cancellation and refund policy
There may be certain occasions when you may not need the ordered product any longer or the product is not delivered to you in promised state. In this situation, you should always read about the merchant’s order cancellation and refund policy to claim your money back. Most of the websites call customers to verify the order before initiating the shipping process and give you 72 hour window to change your mind and cancel the order. In the event you confirmed the order and the item is shipped/billed, it becomes difficult for the merchant to give you a refund for the same. Do enquire about the refund policies beforehand to avoid getting into spot.