how to shop online safely

How to Shop Online Safely and Securely

At some point over the pandemic, we were all forced to shop online. Even if you didn’t want to, you needed to. Some of us love it for convenience and will continue to shop online forever. Now, it seems that we are all experts at the art of shopping online. Maybe so, but we could all use a little brush up on how to shop online safely and securely. Here are some tips including the new “buy now, pay later” which we really don’t recommend unless you’re good with credit and won’t ever miss a payment.

Be Prepared Before You Shop

To reduce your online risk, it’s good practice to always plan ahead and know what you want to buy in advance. Make a list just like you would a grocery list and place your items in categories that can be purchased from one merchant or website. This will limit the number of websites that you purchased from and therefore will limit the number of times that you share your credit card and any personal information. Also, never share your birthday or SIN number.

Make Sure You’re on the Right Website

When shopping on your desktop many fake sites can look like the authentic ones but there are some telltale signs that you’ve landed on an imposter. These include poorly designed sites, broken links, and back buttons that don’t work, no contact information such as email, phone number, and address. Avoid clicking links from an email as this is the easiest way to direct you to a fake website. Always type the website address in your browsers and double-check the spelling. Make sure the URL starts with the lock sign and HTTPS. The lock sign and HTTPS are verification that the site is encrypted to protect your information. Never visit less-known websites especially if the website doesn’t show a security lock in the URL to indicate that it’s a secure website.

Do Your Research

Always do your research to ensure you shop online safely. You’re already sitting at your computer or on your phone anyway so there’s no excuse. Read online reviews from other customers who’ve bought from the website you are interested in buying from. Look for feedback on any issues of quality, payment, delivery, refund policy, shipping costs, taxes, and potential perks. Beware of incredibly low prices or unbelievable deals and extra charges that seem abnormal.

Shopping Online Safely and Securely On Your Phone

There are some tips to consider to shop online safely on your iPhone. Most people don’t realize that mobile phones use shortened URLs so check these because there is potential for you to be tricked on a malicious website. If your favourite online shops have an app, use it. It’s best to download them and shop through the app which is highly encrypted. It’s best to not shop in public on public wi-fi networks, both for your phone and laptop. Watch your back! Anyone can easily look over your shoulder and catch you entering your passwords.

How to Pay Online Safely

How do you decide how to pay? You have options like credit, debit, and touch id through Apple. Credit cards are the most popular method, either by entering your credit card number or using a touch id from your phone. Credit cards offer more protection than other methods. If there is a problem you have the right by law to dispute the payment and the credit card company is obligated to withhold payment while the dispute is being investigated. If someone uses your credit card without permission, most companies will wave all charges. Use strong passwords (upper and lower cases, numbers, and symbols) and two-factor authentication. Check your statements regularly. It’s smart to use one credit card with a low spending limit so you can keep track easily.

You can also use a virtual credit card which means some companies will issue a temporary card linked to your credit card account. You can use the temporary number to shop online without showing the seller your real credit card details. If a thief gets ahold of the virtual credit card number and later tries to use it…Sorry, Charlie.

Watch How to Shop Online Safely and Securely

Is it Safe to Buy Now, Pay Later?

By now, you’ve probably seen the options on some sites to buy now, pay later. These are usually in installments. Currently, about 55% of online shoppers use the buy now, pay later options and a third of those have missed payments. These two stats are too high. Before you go down the buy now, pay later road ask yourself these questions. Do you need it or just want it? Will you really have the money during the installment period?

Keep in mind that if you miss an installment, this can affect your credit rating. You will end up paying a fee plus interest (higher than credit card companies) to the BNPL company as well as any NSF charges to your bank if you set up automatic payments. The BNPL companies report missed payments but they don’t report on-time payments. Now, that’s not fair. In any event, if you really want to pursue buy now, pay later always read their terms and conditions. Most of us don’t read the fine print but it’s there for you.

Cost Per Use Economics

If you’re unsure about a purchase because of the price, do the math to figure out if it’s economical over time. For instance, you’d like to buy a weighted blanket but $270 seems a little steep. Check the warranty and say it’s for one year. Take the cost of the purchase and divide it by the number of days in the warranty. If you use this formula the weighted blanket costs 73¢/day ($270 ÷ 365 days = 73¢/day).

What To Do if You’ve Been Scammed

if you’re Canadian and believe you’ve been scammed, you should report the incident immediately. Contact your credit card company, reset all your accounts for your computer, phones, email, and any social media accounts. Report the incident to the Canadian Ani-Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501 or online here. For more information on Cyber Security, you can visit CCCS at

If you are American and believe you’ve been scammed you can file reports to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Tip: If you suspect you may be a victim of ID theft, the FTC offers an identity theft recovery plan.

For more advice on how to shop online safely and the best quality products, you can visit our ho page here.

The Shop Advisor is not influenced by advertising and selects products independently. If you purchase a product through The Shop Advisor links in this article, we may earn a small affiliate commission. We try and provide the most retail options available for your convenience. For more on our affiliate policy please read here.