Online shopping in South Africa is booming – it’s enjoyable and convenient to click your way to great bargains from the comfort of your desk or sofa. Unfortunately, the more things are ‘added to carts’, the more potential opportunities there are for fraudsters to gain access to your hard-earned money. Don’t become a statistic – follow Santam’s 10 tips for safe and enjoyable online shopping:
1. Save your favourites
To avoid typing in the wrong address, it’s a good idea to bookmark your most trusted shopping sites. Ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues, and read online reviews to see if customers have enjoyed a safe shopping experience.
2. Look for the lock
Only transact on secure websites: Look for the lock image on the toolbar, valid certificates such as VeriSign and secure payment systems such as PayU. When you get to the page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an ‘s’ after ‘http://’ in the web address of that page – it should read: ‘https://’. The encryption is a security measure that scrambles your data as it is entered.
3. Do your online shopping in safe places
Don’t do your shopping in coffee shops and malls. With public Wi-Fi, there’s a bigger chance for fraudsters to intercept your connection and get hold of your usernames and passwords.
4. Watch out for strange emails and links
Fraudsters are quite good at mimicking known websites, which enables them to easily create emails with fraudulent links in them that look legitimate. Always be sceptical about offers that seem to good to be true. Certain online ads on social media sites might take you to a fake website that can infect your system with malware. Rule of thumb: rather type in the web address yourself. Also, never send emails that contain personal information such as your card number and expiry date, or supply these details over the phone.
5. Keep your browser up to date
Those constant updates can be annoying but they are there to keep you safe. Always do system and app updates to lessen the risk of vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
6. Use strong passwords
Don’t create a password that is easy to guess or hack. Use an 8-digit password combination of upper case letters, symbols and numbers. Did you know that a simple 6-letter password will take a hacker 10 minutes to crack but the 8-digit one described above would take them 463 years? Get more tips on password security here.
7. Keep track of your bank statements
Check your statements regularly for any unverified transactions, as well as to ensure that no fraudulent charges are happening on your accounts.
8. Choose strong antivirus software
Use good quality antivirus software – whether from your bank or reputable providers such as McAfee or Kaspersky Lab.
9. Use two-factor authentication methods
In the world of online shopping and banking, the OTP (one-time PIN) is your best friend. This is what is called two-factor authentication – when you need another mode of verification (other than your password) to authorise a transaction. You will usually receive an OTP as an SMS on your cellphone. Technology such as Verified by VISA and Mastercard SecureCode protect both you, the cardholder, and the merchant by verifying your personal details during an online purchase.
10. Teach your kids about online safety
They might not have credit cards yet but if you have a household of tablets and phones, sharing music and movies between accounts, then it’s a good idea to teach them safety habits too. Remind your teenage kids never to give out personal details over the phone, and to be careful about clicking on email links.
What about buying and selling secondhand goods?
Online classifieds sites such as Gumtree, OLX and Bidorbuy have also grown hugely in popularity – making them popular targets for criminals posing as buyers or sellers. Whether you’re buying or selling online, follow these tips to make sure you’re protected:
When you buy:
- Make sure the photograph and description of an item are the same. Some scammers use pictures they find online because they don’t actually have the item they are advertising.
- Check items carefully – plug electronic items in to see if they are working, and insist on any certificates for items such as jewellery.
- Never give a deposit on goods: only pay cash for goods that you have checked in person. Scammers get buyers to pay a deposit to ‘secure their purchase’ or for a ‘courier bill’. Walk away.
- If the scammer gives you a physical address to collect the goods from, check Google maps to see if the address actually exists.
- Don’t carry large sums of cash when going to meet a seller. Rather go with the seller to the bank and draw money or do an electronic fund transfer (EFT) once both have agreed to the sale.
- If possible, verify the identity of a buyer by asking for a copy of the person’s ID.
- Don’t use escrow services, Moneygram or Western Union – it’s probably a scam!
When you sell:
- Call the bank when receiving a payment confirmation via SMS and ask them to confirm that the transaction is legitimate and that the money has cleared. Scammers have been known to send fake SMS messages impersonating the bank or create fake proofs of payment.
- Whether you are buying or selling, always arrange to meet the other party in person, in a public place.
- Avoid deals with sellers not based in South Africa.
Make sure that you stay abreast of common online scams by visiting these useful websites: www.reportacrime.co.za, www.cybercrime.org; www.saps.gov.za and www.crimeline.co.za. You can also get more tips on avoiding fraud in this article.