Winter holidays are almost here, but I am sure many of you have not yet purchased gifts to put under the Christmas tree. Traditional shopping takes time, energy and money and that is why many people prefer to do shopping online.

This method is obviously more comfortable but you need to remember about basic safety rules. Entering a store and paying for goods that you receive straight away is the safest way of spending money. On the Web you need to log in to your bank account, switch between webpages and juggle credit cards numbers. How to protect yourself from losing money?

Choose trusted stores

The first and rudimentary rule of online shopping is to visit trusted stores. Choose popular brands, but if you go to a less known website, first read some opinions on it before making a purchase. The lowest price should not be your only criterion of choice. If majority of stores offer a given smartphone model at a certain price and it is much lower in the less known one, the offered product may be illegal or faulty.

Pay attention to encrypted connections

Safe encrypted connections are a must. Do check whether an online store has the SSL security certificate as it gives certainty that your data is safe. This is crucial when you need to provide personal information, credit card number or you log in to your bank. How to know whether a connection is encrypted? Next to the www address in an Internet browser a small padlock appears and the address prefix looks, for example, like this: If you want to pay online and the www address does not have ‘s‘ in the http prefix or padlock sign you should not proceed with the order. You should also resign if the padlock sign has a small exclamation mark next to it. It means that the website has the SSL certificate but it is not valid anymore and only a valid one guarantees a safe transaction.

Do not shop online in McDonald‘s

Many people use not secured free of charge Wi-Fi hotspots that can be found in many places, not only in McDonald‘s restaurants. If you connect to them only to check news and weather, it is fine. Do not log in to your bank account or shop online and give your credit card number. If you really need to do a quick purchase using your phone or laptop, choose a secure network.

Use complicated passwords

We have written about passwords many times on this blog but this issue is valid as many of you still use very easy and basic passwords. All online accounts should have the highest securities possible! Do not use passwords like 12345 as this carelessness may have serious consequences. This is extremely important when setting up an online store account as you give there not only your address and contact information but also credit cards numbers.

Text messages from your bank

Nowadays virtually every bank offers their users an online access what makes our lives easier as we do not have to go to a bank but can conduct payments online. To validate a given transaction you need to type in a password. You may use paper passwords received from your bank, however majority uses passwords sent on a mobile phone. It is convenient and after some time turns into routine. When you conduct a payment you usually do not read the whole message as you pay attention only to the sent password – this is a huge mistake! Some time ago on the news there was a story of a man who lost 10,000 pounds. It turned out that his computer had a virus that changed copied account numbers to the ones belonging to the thief! How did it happen? Imagine that you need to conduct a wire transfer to a certain account number. Usually you do not type it in manually but copy it and then paste to the bank form. Then you receive a password and you type it in the browser. You accept the money transfer which ends up not on yours but the thief‘s account! The computer virus changed the copied account number and, although history of transaction showed correct data, the message with password for confirmation contained different number. That is why you should read whole messages as this is the easiest way to protect yourself from losing money.

Use antivirus programmes

Popular and renowned antivirus programmes can protect you from the situation described above. It is worth installing such software not only for making payments but also for browsing the Internet. Opening some not trusted websites may result in installing many unwanted applications that may be harmful to your computer and might steal vital data.

The Internet has unarguably made our lives easier. But there is also a dark side to it. If you like shopping and paying online for things like bills, try to follow the rules outlined above. Not only before Christmas, but every day of the year.

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