How to shop online safely

Around three quarters of Germans do their pre-Christmas shopping online. No wonder really as it’s so convenient. This series of articles explains everything you need to watch out for to ensure your online shopping trip goes safely and smoothly. 

You know what it’s like: Can’t find a parking place, long queues at the checkout, frustrated shop workers… In the run up to Christmas, city center shopping is anything but fun. So why not buy Christmas presents in comfort using your computer or smartphone? There are great prices to be had and parcels are sent directly to your home. But many still consider it all to be unsafe. Of course, online shopping isn’t 100% risk-free – neither is city center shopping, with pickpockets, con artists, and astronomical prices lying in wait. While the internet poses no risk to life or limb at least, scammers are always up to new tricks to get their hands on your money. If you follow these rules, you’ll at least be safe.

Checklist: 100% safe shopping – what you need to do

Keep programs/apps up to date at all times:

When shopping and paying, it’s important to only use up-to-date browsers. Cybercrooks often exploit software bugs or vulnerabilities to get at protected data. Updating your browser and all associated extensions (such as Flash and Java) is a must and should be done routinely. Simply keep an eye out for the notifications that appear automatically when you start the program or manually check your browser settings on a regular basis to see if updates are available.

Check if the retailer is legitimate:

Do some digging on the retailer, especially if it’s an unknown online shop with a sensational offer. When weighing up a retailer, useful tools include ratings, which are a standard aspect of price comparison sites, internet trustmarks, and the Avira Safe Shopping tool. Similarly, you need to be able to find the retailer’s contact details as well as terms and conditions easily. Often, all you need to do is quickly Google the retailer’s name together with the word “experiences”. If a shop is not legit, you’ll see loads of warnings in the hit list – or perhaps even no hits at all.

Unrealistically low prices should make you suspicious.

Read product descriptions carefully:

Before making a purchase, read the product’s description in detail and check product images as well as the delivery terms and shipping costs carefully. If any important details are missing or the description is ambiguous, you’re better off buying from somewhere else.

Secure transfers:

When paying, your data must be transmitted in an encrypted format. You can tell this by the acronym https:// and the little padlock icon in your browser’s address bar.

Only enter personal details such as your address and account number if the internet site uses https – recognizable by the little padlock icon in the address bar.

Pay securely:

Use tried and tested payment methods like an invoice or PayPal, then practically nothing can go wrong. Find out more here.

Keep your eyes open:

Take immediate action if anything odd happens during the payment process. If, for example, you suddenly lose the connection and an error message appears, tell the retailer and your bank first before trying again.

Payment process error messages should sound alarm bells.

Document every step:

If you want to be absolutely sure, particularly if buying expensive items, print the product description, the order confirmation, the terms and conditions, and other documents and retain them.

Don’t forget your antivirus:

When surfing the internet, a good antivirus program is an absolute must. Some, like Avira Internet Security Suite, protect you not only from Trojans that try to snoop on your login details, but also from fake online shops.

A good antivirus is an absolute must for online shoppers.

Internet shopping is safe if you follow these basic rules. You’ll find out what you need to know in detail in the next parts of our series. Click here to go to part two.

This post is also available in: German