COVID-19 has changed the world. No doubt, as we are released into the “wild,” life as we knew it is gone. Different ways of gathering, eating out, and shopping will take hold and no longer be new or temporary.

The quarantine life experienced throughout much of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, cast a spotlight on shopping online. For many, online purchases were the only way to safely procure essential items.

Whether your purchases were shipped or prepared for “curbside pickup,” using the Internet to buy now highlights accessibility for all.

Usually, buying online is safe. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take steps to help protect your transactions. Here are five tips that can help you have positive online shopping experiences.

Stick with Reputable Vendors Who Have Websites You Can Trust

The best way to keep yourself safe while shopping online is to stick with sites you know and have a good reputation.

If you’re going to shop with a company that is not familiar to you, do a little research first. Many small retailers will pop up in your social media feed or in a search that is tempting. They may appear to offer great products at excellent prices.

Before you order from these vendors, always do a quick Google search of the website’s name to make sure others haven’t had bad experiences with them.

Something else you should be aware of is a website that is difficult to navigate or doesn’t work fluidly. Inexperienced online retailers often make mistakes with security, or don’t setit up at all.

If you are having trouble using the website, it’s a tip off that design and setup is not up to par. Don’t get frustrated. Move on to a different vendor.

Don’t Shop Using Public Wi-Fi

Shopping at home on your secure Wi-Fi is the best bet for keeping your credit card information safe. If you’re shopping from other locations, such as cafes, hotels, or airports, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to protect your browsing activity.

Use Strong Passwords

Each of your accounts should have an 18+ character, randomly generated password that doesn’t contain real words. It is also essential to have a unique password for each account. If one account is compromised, you won’t have to worry about changing the passwords on multiple accounts.

Check for the Padlock

Always make sure there is a lock next to the address of the website you are browsing and that the web address starts with HTTPS versus HTTP. This ensures the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed.

All browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge) will warn you if a website is not using SSL and will attempt to prevent you from accessing the URL if that is the case.

Check Your Banking Accounts

It is best practice to proactively monitor your credit card accounts regularly to make sure there aren’t any suspicious charges.

Shopping online is convenient, but getting your information hacked isn’t. Be smart about your online purchasing habits. Security never takes a holiday! If you do have a bad experience with a company, make sure you write a review on Google or Facebook to help others avoid the same issues.

Do you love online shopping? Have you had a bad experience with buying online? What lessons have you learned that might help others avoid costly mistakes? We would love to hear from you.

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