If my math is correct, at the time of this writing, it’s exactly 51 days before Christmas. Shoppers from all over are probably now scurrying to tick off everything in their shopping lists. For another, scammers – both online and offline – are as well scurrying to find the next unsuspecting victim. I don’t know about you, but I sure have no intention of becoming the next online shopping victim.
But before we go any further, let’s clear some things up a bit. There’s a good chance you landed on this article because of the title. Gangster shopping online, eh?
Remember that saying “it takes one to know one?” Or perhaps “a thief hates a fellow thief?” I’m no gangster, but I can tell you with conviction that gangsters are probably some of the most cautious, if not paranoid, people on the planet. Why? Because they know there’s always something or somebody out there to get them.
Here are a few “gangster” tips to consider when shopping online:
1. Secure your computer.
I know I’m beating a dead horse all over again, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it … yet again. No matter what your computer is – Acer, Dell, IBM, Novatech, iMac or an ingenuity you pieced together yourself – secure your computer from cyber attacks. The Internet may be the next best invention since the bubble gum, but the Internet is also a haven for appalling elements who’ll stop at nothing to dupe innocent users. To stay the safe course, remember to:
- keep your anti-virus program up-to-date
- install an anti-malware application and ensure it’s regularly updated
- keep your browser updated as well
2. When shopping online, use strong passwords.
Here’s another dead horse to flog, but hey, better safe than sorry, yes? Below are pointers to keep in mind when creating passwords:
- Don’t use the same password for multiple sites.
- For her sake, please tell your grandma to stop using “password” as her password. (Sorry, but I can’t help throwing that in.)
- Don’t include personal information in your password.
- Use a combination of alphanumeric keys, capital letters and special characters in your password.
- As much as possible, refrain from using real words in your password.
- Use long passwords.
- Change your passwords as often as possible.
4. Look for the seal of safety.
Whether via your computer or smartphone, it will do you good to shop with secure sites only. Remember that such sites have:
- SSL (secure socket layer) over HTTP which makes for HTTPS or HTTP Secure and padlock in the address bar or lower right hand corner of the page
- third-party trust marks or security seals. Still, before making a purchase, ensure that the displayed seal goes to the intended website. Unscrupulous entities sometimes use these seals to lure users into divulging critical information.
5. Shop with merchants you know.
When dealing with brick-and-mortar stores, you most likely won’t hand your money or credit card over to just about anybody, especially somebody who doesn’t look trustworthy. The same holds true for online shopping. Before making that purchase, ensure that the merchant is legitimate and reputable. If the deal you want for yourself is from a site you’re not familiar with, check for online ratings or the possibility of a scam.
6. Click with care.
When shopping online, never go on a mindless clicking spree. Don’t click on links embedded in e-mails or you might be victimized by phishing sites and suffer the risk of your identity being stolen. Type the URL in the address bar. You’re safer this way.
8. Refrain from making online financial transactions via public wireless networks.
Save your financial transactions at home where your Internet access is secure. Public Wi-Fi access may be convenient, but they can leave you vulnerable to hackers. Rogue hotspots are everywhere, and it’s wise to keep in mind that cyber criminals are always out and about to pounce on their next victim.
Then again, if it cannot be helped, choose the lesser evil. Go for an encrypted public network over an unsecured one. Or better yet, consider using a VPN (virtual private network), especially if you’re always on the go.
9. If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
Do I need to say anything else to explain that point? Probably not.