Top 7 Tips for a Safer Online Shopping

5 MinsAug 03, 2020

Online buying has been a big blessing during the recent Covid-19 induced lockdown. You can buy everything from medicines and groceries to gadgets, appliances, clothes and décor without stepping out of your home. While online buying is convenient, it also has risks that you should be aware of. To ensure that your data and your payment information is secure, there are few practices you should always keep in mind. Let’s see what they are: 

online buy

Use trusted and secure websites

One of the most basic ways to stay safe while buying online is to stick to reputed and popular marketplaces and stores. A good source for that information is app reviews on popular app stores. Another way to research this is to check for any recent news of bad experiences people may have had on the site. Another standard check is to ensure that the URL of the website should start with ‘https://’ which denotes an additional layer of safety followed by most reputable websites. It can also be verified by the lock icon just before the URL on most browsers.

Be mindful when signing up

The importance of a strong password cannot be overstressed. Keep your passwords unique, random and don’t use easy-to-guess options. More importantly, keep changing them periodically. Bad password habits are quite common and can be especially dangerous while buying online.

You’re not obligated to provide all the information that the store asks for. Only fill mandatory information, usually denoted by an asterisk. Also, when setting up security questions, the store doesn’t have to know the actual name of your first pet – it will happily take ‘Eiffel Tower’ as an acceptable answer.

Verify the seller’s reputation

Many e-commerce websites act as an intermediary between sellers and customers. Despite policies and rules for sellers to stick to, bad sellers can go undetected for a while especially on big marketplaces. However, most websites also offer a way for customers to leave seller reviews, which helps you detect such sellers. If the seller has a record of many recent customer complaints about malfunctioning and defective products, it might be safe to avoid the purchase.

Check return and refund policies

This is useful in case you end up with an unsatisfactory product. If a seller or a website does not have easy return policies, you should reconsider ordering from them. Refunds should also be checked similarly. If a store doesn’t provide refunds, it should be an immediate red flag. Alternatively, some stores restrict refunds to their store-level wallets, which forces you to make a future purchase or lose money. Make your purchase decision with that in mind.

[Also Read: Tips to keep in mind when transferring money to India]

Keep your cards secure

To make payments convenient, many online stores offer the option to save your debit and credit card details with them, requiring only the secure 3-digit CVV code during payment. In such cases, if the website is breached, your card details can be compromised. Also, using your cards on a non-secure network can be risky.

However, this does not mean that you should avoid using your cards. Just practice all precautions when using it. One advantage of using cards is that you can earn reward points. Virtual cards, like Axis Bank’s Virtual Debit Card, add an extra layer of safety as they can be cancelled and reissued faster than a physical debit card in the case of a compromise.

Use secure payment instruments

Using digital wallets on e-commerce websites and stores can help with faster checkouts, refunds and avoiding having to enter card details during checkout. You should also make use of newer payment methods like UPI, which allow you to avoid entering any personal details about your bank account except your UPI ID. No UPI transaction can be processed without you authorising it by entering your UPI pin from the app that the UPI ID is connected to, for instance, the BHIM Axis Pay UPI app. Also, avoid accepting UPI Collect requests from unfamiliar merchants or individuals.

Similarly, internet banking also offers two-factor security by using OTPs and secure payment gateways for verification. For instance, Axis Bank’s internet banking offers 128-bit encryption, a high secured Login ID and Password, Netsecure code and adaptive authentication which detects the change in login environment and triggers security questions accordingly.

Make security a habit

No amount of tips can help those who don’t prioritise security for themselves. Doing things like keeping track of your bank and credit card statements is a good habit for everyone, and reduces the risk of fraudulent e-commerce transactions going undetected. Additionally, if possible, transact only over secure WiFi networks. That also reduces the chances of a local malicious actor reaching your finances. Numerous small steps like these can become a natural habit with a mindset focussed on security, which, in all likelihood, is all you need to keep online buying safe and secure. 

Disclaimer: This article has been authored by Siddharth Parwatay, a Mumbai based independent tech-journalist, editor, and content-creator. Axis Bank doesn't influence the views of the author in any way. Axis Bank and/or the author shall not be responsible for any direct / indirect loss or liability incurred by the reader for taking any financial decisions based on the contents and information. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decision.