15 Tips for shopping online safely

No doubt the online shopping is growing in Malaysia as well as in other Southeast Asia countries. More and more consumers are changing their buying behaviour, from purchase at brick and mortar store to shop via internet. The potential of the e-commerce also attracts the attention of cyber criminals. Thus, the consumers must know do’s and don’ts to stay away from getting ripped off.

1. Never use public Wi-Fi connection for online shopping

The public Wi-Fi network is shared by unknown people sitting around you and possible one of these people is cybercriminal who may sit there to steal other users’ data within the same network.

2. Avoid using public computers to buy online

You will never know who have used the computer before. It is possible a cybercriminal used the same computer and installed a malware to gather users’ sensitive information while using it.

3. Know the merchant before purchase

Try to read “About Us” section in the merchant website to understand their background and do research the merchant via Internet to find out any negative comment about the merchant by other consumers. Personally not recommend to shop with the merchant never disclose their contact number and address.

4. Protect your privacy

You must know what kind of information will be collected by the merchants when accessing their website. Just read “Privacy Policy” published in their website and only continue to use their website if you are comfortable with the way your personal information is treated under their policy. Also, you are recommended to look for seals from privacy enforcement organizations like TRUSTe.

5. Don’t supply personal information not required for a purchase

Certain personal information is not required to be provided for online purchase such as personal bank account information. Be cautious if they ask so.

6. Knows the details of the online purchase

You need to understand the details before any purchase such as delivery policy including delivery period, shipping and handling fees, warranties, refund and return policy and other terms and conditions. You need to know your rights.

7. Use credit card to make payment
Please always use credit card to make payment to the merchant instead of debit card, cash transfer and cash deposit. Please take note that the credit card transactions are protected by the credit card company over unauthorized transactions, non-delivered or misrepresented merchandise. The non credit card payments do not have such protection. PayPal also recommended as payment option for you to use to make payment. Its Buyer Protection Programme provides full refund for unauthorized payments for something you didn’t purchase.

8. Please use strong and unique password
Please don’t use your birth date, identity card number and contact number as your password. The ideal password should be mixed with letters, numbers and symbols and you should not use same password for everything. For more tips about creating a unique and strong password, please visit the tips that recommended by Google at http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/online-safety/passwords/.

9. Look for the security Lock
Never ever use your financial information at a site without having SSL (secure sockets layer) certification. SSL is cryptographic protocols that provide communication security over the Internet, to protect the data transmitted over the internet via encryption. You will know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar, depends on the browser used.

10. Never disclose your credit card info to third-party
In whatever circumstance, you must not give anyone your credit card information over email, SMS and phone call to make payment.

11. Always check your statements
You’re advised to check the statements of your credit card, debit card and bank accounts. If electronic statement is available, please utilize it to see any fraudulent charges and incorrect billing instead of wait for your physical bill posted to your door step. If found something wrong, please report to the financial institutions immediately.

12. Keep your records
Remember to print or save electronically any records related to your online transactions which will help you keep track of shipping dates, shipping and handling fees, and other details of your transactions. You are advised to keep any advertisements or materials that show a specific delivery time, or write the delivery time in your records if one was promised. Just remember to keep track of your purchases and if you don’t receive them by the expected date, then contact the company to follow-up on your order.

13. Don’t greedy
Remember to compare prices among a variety of merchant. If the merchant is selling a similar product at extreme lower price, it could be an e-commerce scam. For example, majority of the merchants selling product ABC between RM1,5000 and RM2,000 but only merchant A selling product ABC at RM500. If you buy from merchant A, then you will fall into the trap.

14. Don’t trust deals on social networking sites
A lot of people found social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as their great places to find bargains, but the scammers will pose as retailers looking to get credit card information from the victims.

15. Using antivirus software or any internet security tool
Remember to install antivirus or any internet security application in your computer to help you prevent and remove any malware inside your computer, to avoid the cyber criminals collect your sensitive information.

When Something Goes Wrong

If you have an unsatisfactory shopping experience, you should contact the merchant or the seller first to resolve your comment. If you still can’t achieve satisfaction or the problem cannot be resolved with the merchant, then contact your Credit Card Company or bank. If you suspect a law has been broken, you can take the case to the following local authorities:

  • Cyber999 Help Centre (http://www.mycert.org.my) – This service is provided for Internet users to report or escalate computer security incidents. The contact number is 1300882999.
  • Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives and Consumerism (http://e-aduan.kpdnkk.gov.my) – A place for consumers to report their complaint. The contact number is 1800886800.
  • Commercial Crime Investigation Department (http://www.rpm.gov.my) – A department of Royal Malaysia Police that conduct investigation, arrest and prosecute, white collared criminals who commit cheating offences, criminal breach of trust, cyber crime fraud and others whether the activities is committed by an individual or by syndicate. The contact number is 603-20319999 or 603-22663333.

by Terry Brown

Author: Terry KS

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