How to make secure payments online

How to make secure payments online

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82% of shoppers used online shopping at some point during 2019, and even with shops re-opening after the easing of lockdown, that figure is likely to increase in 2020. But with so much opportunity to shop online, there also comes an increased risk of fraud and crime.

Nearly 7% of all adults in the UK fell victim to fraud last year, with well over a third of them losing more than £250 in the process. So with the increasing importance of online shopping going hand-in-hand with a rise in fraud, you may wonder what can be done to make sure you aren’t conned out of your hard-earned cash.

How to make secure payments online

To make secure payments online, you should first research the company or person you’re buying from. You should then make sure you’re protected by using secure WiFi and having up-to-date antivirus software. Lastly, try to pay by credit card if possible as this will better protect you against scams.

How to make secure payments online

To make secure payments online, you should first research the company or person you’re buying from. You should then make sure you’re protected by using secure WiFi and having up-to-date antivirus software. Lastly, try to pay by credit card if possible as this will better protect you against scams.

Is online shopping safe?

Online shopping is just as secure as shopping in a retail store provided you take the appropriate precautions. The reason that online shopping can seem less safe is that these measures are less familiar than those we’d take when heading to the shops.

It’s second nature for us to cover our PIN when paying by card, and we’d never set cash down while we wait to pay, but the difference with security measures for online shopping is that they’re not built into our behaviour in the same way. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself when shopping online, both in terms of what you’re buying and how you choose to pay.

How to know if a website is safe

Before you even start adding things to your shopping cart, one of the things you can do is check that the website you’re buying from is real and secure. In many cases, this might be as simple as buying from somewhere that you’ve heard of and know is reliable. However, you should also check that the website you’ve ended up on is actually theirs. You should also look at links in this way before clicking on anything you’ve been sent.

Look out for spoofed URLs

Some scammers will create websites with similar addresses to what you’d expect to try and trick people into buying from them. Sometimes called “spoofed URLs”, these website addresses will try a few ways of mimicking their real counterparts, most commonly:

  • Misspelling the website name (e.g. “www.primrak.com”)
  • Adding dashes between words (e.g. changing “www.pizzahut.co.uk” to “www.pizza-hut.co.uk”)
  • Changing the website suffix (e.g. swapping “.com” for “.net”)

Check if the website is secure

Another thing to check for is whether the website is secure. Even if you’re sure that the website you’re visiting is the right one, there’s still a chance your details could be stolen. You can see if a website is secure by clicking on the padlock next to the address.

You can also check the full address of a website if you’re unsure if it’s safe or not. Since 2016, most secure websites have switched to using “https” rather than “http” in front of their address. So if you come across one without the new format, there’s a chance the connection isn’t secure and you could be at risk by using the website.

Be wary of person-to-person selling platforms

Some websites allow people to sell to one another in a whole variety of different ways, with some of the most famous examples being eBay and Facebook Marketplace. However, although such sites are generally reliable, you should still be cautious when buying as these websites tend to attract a lot of scammers.

First of all, you should take a hard look at the product description. See if there are any inconsistencies or wild claims, remembering that if a deal seems too good to be true, it’s most likely because it’s a scam.

Next, look at what the website says it does to protect you as a buyer. You can generally find this information in their Help and Support sections. If there isn’t enough information on how they stop scammers or what they’ll do if you have a problem, then you’re better off avoiding them as they won’t necessarily give you the help you’ll need if you get tangled up in a case of fraud.

Lastly, pay using a secure method of payment. We’ll come onto what this means in more detail later on, but in general, try to use a credit card as you’re much better protected if you need to get your money back.

How can I make secure payments online?

The simplest way for scammers to get access to your details is to grab them without having to set up any kind of communication or website, and they can access your private information remotely if you aren’t taking steps to look after your details. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to get all these safety measures in place, but it’s always worth remembering that without them, it wouldn’t take long for someone to access your data.

Make sure your WiFi is secure

There’s not much you need to do to make sure that you’re using a secure WiFi to shop - just use your network at home and have it set up with a password. Using a public WiFi could mean that scammers could look for your personal details by going through the network.

If you can’t get access to a secure WiFi network, try using a VPN to keep your information private. This guide from PC Mag UK explains what they are and how they could help you out:

What Is a VPN?

Make sure your passwords are unique

65% of people use the same password for everything, and according to a survey in 2019, the most popular password is “123456” - not exactly what you’d call secure. Using different passwords is a great place to start if you want to keep your information more secure. Using passwords that have upper and lower case letters, numbers and other characters is also a good way to make it harder for scammers to access your information.

If you’ve got a lot of passwords online and have trouble remembering them, you could always sign up to a password manager that’ll keep all of your passwords and usernames stored securely.

Check your antivirus protection

In addition to being careful about the sites you visit and how you look after your data, you should also have antivirus software installed to your computer as a last line of defence. The software will scan your computer for anything unwanted and get rid of it before it does any lasting damage.

Use fingerprint and facial recognition

Using a fingerprint or facial recognition is a great way to secure your payments as they’re next to impossible for scammers to duplicate. You can access your bank account using fingerprint or facial recognition through the thinkmoney app. If you’re concerned that scammers might have access to your account, check if any one-time passcode emails have been sent to your account, and get in touch with us if you’ve been sent one you didn’t request.

What online payments should I use?

As well as taking care before you buy, you can also protect yourself by paying in a way that makes it easier for you to get refunded if something goes wrong. For more advice on how to pay securely, check out our guide to secure online payments.

Pay by credit or debit card where possible

Paying by credit or debit card is an easy way to protect yourself as the cards usually come with more support in terms of fraud and non-delivery of orders. If you’re still a little uneasy giving your card details online, you can use a service like PayPal which will send the payment securely and track your payment. This means that if something goes wrong, they’ll be able to help you get your money back.

You should always avoid paying by bank transfer when shopping online. Your payment won’t be insured in the same way if you pay like this. Also, as no reputable shops or retailers use this method to accept payments, you can be fairly certain that anyone asking for payment like this is potentially a scammer.

Don’t forget, most credit cards charge interest so you should always try and clear your balance each month.

Check bank statements regularly

The best way for scammers to operate is without you knowing that anything’s gone wrong. For this reason, you should try to check your bank statements every week and look for any transactions you don’t recognise. If you see a company or person you can’t remember buying from, it could be that a scammer has been at work.

In some cases, companies use different names when taking payments, so double-check whether the name you see on your statement relates to an actual payment using this list.

If you think you’ve been scammed and want to know what you should do, check out our advice on reporting a scam.

What do banks and sellers do to keep my payments safe?

Banks and sellers also play their part in protecting your payments. PSD2 (Payment Services Directive) is a directive given by the European Union which secures online payments. It covers the majority of payment service providers and enforces stricter authentication rules concerning payments as well as giving banking data to third-party adjudicators.

A major part of PSD2 is SCA, which stands for “strong customer authentication”. SCA essentially means that all payments must have at least two of these three authentication steps:

  • Something you know (username/password/PIN)
  • Something you have (phone/computer/tablet)
  • Something you are (fingerprint/facial recognition)

Added to the SCA, the payment will be linked to a specific amount and payee so that it can be traced if something goes wrong. To help with this step, companies must also give access to third parties if the customer has asked them to look into a problem with their purchase.