The Coronavirus has brought about some major changes to our society, and among those changes is a huge shift to online shopping over brick-and-mortar stores. While it wasn’t safe to go to the store and shop for nick-nacks and electronics, sites like Amazon provided us with everything we needed and more—at the click of a button. Online shopping rose about 31% between Q1-Q2 of 2020, and has risen since then. 

Unfortunately, along with online sales, cybercrime has also increased. Experts estimate there have been around 4,000 cyberattacks per day since the pandemic began, so protecting yourself while shopping online is more important than ever.

Here are six tips to avoid cyber crimes while shopping online

1. Don’t Shop On Suspicious Websites

It’s important to look closely at new websites. Let’s say you saw the site on an ad somewhere, and wanted to take a look at its products. Before you buy anything, do a quick Google search about the site/brand. Do they have any reviews? If so, are they good or bad? Does the site’s name come up as a malicious website? As consumers, it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves, and “new to you” websites might not be what you think they are.

Even if the site was recommended by a friend or family member, it’s still a good idea to vet the site first. If you do end up using a new site, check their payment methods as well. If they only accept something like a debit card, that’s a red flag. Most sites will allow several payment methods, including third-party services like PayPal. 

2. Don’t Fall For “Too Good To Be True” Ads

80% off of the newest iPhone? That sounds too good to be true! Well, unfortunately, it is. No retailer in history has ever taken 80% off of the latest iPhone right after it’s released, so you can scratch that from your wishlist. We’ve all been exposed to these kinds of ads—and they’re usually connected to a scam. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are. 

A good way to vet these kinds of ads is to research the brand’s competitors. Competitors will often try to match or beat one another, so if one is truly offering such a huge discount on a brand name item, its competitor probably is, too. Be careful when clicking these ads, as sometimes, they lead you directly to a malicious website. 

3. Avoid Shopping On Public WiFi

This can’t be stressed enough, especially when so many of us are working remotely, and might head to our favorite coffee or bookshop to browse the internet. It’s pretty much inevitable that we’ll end up on Amazon or some other eCommerce site, but avoid buying anything until you’re back on your home network. Why? Because public networks are available to anyone, which means your local hacker could be watching everything you do.

Public WiFi should, in truth, only be used sparingly. The dangers far outweigh the convenience of having an internet connection on-the-go. 

4. Protect Your Passwords

We don’t put enough emphasis on having good passwords, and we pay for it yearly with billions of credentials stolen, uploaded, and sold on the dark web and in other dark corners of the web. The problem is that we don’t take our passwords seriously, or the maintenance of passwords and login credentials. One of the best ways to protect yourself while shopping online and in general is to create better passwords and store them with a password manager. 

Password management software helps you generate stronger passwords and protect them with encrypted storage. It’s time to quit treating our passwords like a passing thought and start reinforcing our most important cybersecurity measure. A good password can mean the difference between sensitive information being stolen or being protected.

5. Verify SSL Protection

If you navigate to the bottom of any trusted eCommerce site, you’ll likely find the “SSL Protected” seal there. An SSL Certificate is a security measure that helps protect the site and its users by encrypting internet traffic and verifying server identity. A website with SSL protection will have “https://” as part of its URL, and without SSL, the site will have “http://” instead.

When you’re shopping online, you want maximum protection. That means verifying that the site you’re using has an SSL certificate. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not a good idea to risk sending payment information. 

6. Don’t Use Your Debit Card Online

This little-known fact is one of the most important when it comes to online shopping. Using your debit card gives a potential thief/hacker complete access to your bank account if it’s stolen, whereas a credit card has a finite amount of money they’ll get access to. Think about it—would you rather have someone gain access to your checking account or $500 in credit? The answer is plain to see. You should always use either a credit card or a third-party payment service online, like PayPal.

The Bottom Line

Protecting yourself while shopping online means taking certain responsibilities in hand. While it’s easy for us as modern shoppers to assume that an eCommerce shop is always safe and secure, that’s not the case, and we need to do our own research and take appropriate measures to reduce cybercrime.