The ABCs of secure online shopping

To talk about security standards for electronic commerce transactions, it is necessary to understand the EMV 3D Secure (Three-Domain Secure) protocol. This protocol has come to play an important role in the e-commerce payments ecosystem, especially in recent years, when the pervasiveness of digital payments has not only grown exponentially but is expected to grow by more than 20% in the very near future.

During the last year, online shopping has grown exponentially throughout in the region, bringing with it many benefits for both retailers and end consumers. This growth brings with it certain responsibilities, especially in terms of security, which must be assumed by all parties involved in the process.

There are many ways to protect yourself and your financial information when shopping online. Not all e-commerce websites or mobile apps offer the best conditions for a secure online shopping experience. Identity theft or an empty bank account are not the kind of surprises you want to have.

Therefore, below, we share some simple tips that will help consumers to protect themselves from cybercriminals who increasingly use much more advanced techniques to get hold of sensitive, confidential information from users.  When shopping online we must take into consideration three stages: the first is right before the purchase, this will greatly influence the outcome of the transaction; the second one is during the purchase process; and the third one focuses on tips that you should contemplate after completing the purchase

1. Recommendations before starting the online purchase process

Always remember to log out of your devices

After accessing an online shopping or banking site, be sure to completely log out from the site before leaving or closing the site and don't let your computer or device remember your usernames, passwords or credit card information.

Ensure your devices are always updated

Software updates are often released to help improve security and combat new attacks and fraudulent schemes that are constantly being developed. It may seem inconvenient to have to wait for your computer (or smartphone) to update and reboot, but the protection benefits that come from these updates are worth it.

Strengthen your passwords

Although this tip may sound redundant: it is very important. Strong, unique passwords are your best guardians when it comes to keeping your private information safe. If you use the same password for multiple sites, take the time to change them.

Use your own network and devices

Performing a purchase from a friend's computer or even using a connection at the mall could be putting your sensitive information at risk. Avoid shopping online when connected to a public Wi-Fi network or when using a public computer, as this may have a higher risk of exposure to hacking, which could put your information at risk.

Look for HTTPS in the browser bar

Look for the padlock symbol on the browser bar or the acronym HTTPS when completing your purchase. This is most seen on the checkout page of an online store. This means that the website uses an HTTPS secure, encrypted connection, which makes it safe for you to enter your personal information. You should avoid entering your credit card number or other financial information if you don't see this symbol, as well as confirming that the URL corresponds to the name of the store you want to purchase from.

However, you should not only be careful with the purchase methods being used but also be aware of the businesses you are going to interact with, since many times these businesses are vulnerable to cybercriminals, directly affecting and exposing those who use their platforms to make purchases.

2. Recommendations to remember during the purchase process to make sure it is successful and secure

Research the merchant or seller

Today anyone can open an online store, it is important to research a company or seller before buying from their site. Make sure the company has a physical address and a phone number you can contact if there are any problems. You can also look for reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. Read customer reviews. Two simple red flags you can spot: too many super positive reviews and the use of repetitive language or phrases.

Look for customer service contact / information

Safe online shopping sites have their customer service phone number or email address available at plain sight. You can look for their website or mobile app under the Contact Us, About Us sections or even by doing a quick web search for their customer service phone numbers. Also, check if they have their refund and exchange policies visible and accessible on the website. Having this information available is usually a good indicator of credibility.

Don't fall for email scams

Holidays, discount weekends, Cyber Monday or other types of seasonal marketing campaigns are a good time for email scammers to send viruses and malware in the form of a free gift or special offer. Don't open emails from someone you don't know or from a site you have not visited. Mark the sender as SPAM and move the email to your junk folder, this informs your administrator of actions to take when handling future emails from that domain or address.

Don't click on links and avoid pop-up ads

Beware of links that are to too-good-to-be-true offers on social networking sites with amazing deals and giveaways. Also, make sure you have a pop-up blocker installed when shopping on unfamiliar websites to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. If you're really tempted by an offer, do a little research or find out if anyone else has tried to take advantage of the offer before you click on it.

Be careful with apps

Mobile apps make everything more convenient, including stealing your private information. Download apps only from a trusted source like the Apple App Store or Google Play. Pay attention to the permissions requested by the app. If you see something that doesn't make sense, such as access to your contacts, be wary and make sure the app does not have access to them. Checking comments and reviews about an app before downloading it is another way to identify suspicious activity.

3. Recommendations for after completing an online purchase:

Keeping in mind that a large part of a secure online shopping process depends directly on the consumer, it is important to keep the following recommendations in mind:

Use secure payment methods

Credit cards are generally the safest way to pay for goods online. If you don't like the idea of giving your credit card information to different online merchants, you can try payment services like PayPal, Google Wallet or other similar ones that might be available in your country. Avoid using options such as bank transfers, cash or checks by mail

Check your statements or review your transactions

Keep track of your purchase statements and monitor your transactions in progress, even after you've received the items or service, this is to make sure no hidden charges have been added nor suspicious merchants are withdrawing funds from your account.

Keep a record

Always keep records of your online transactions, which should include the receipt, order number, product description and price. You'll also want to save the emails you send or receive from a seller, which can be useful if there is a problem in the future.

Never provide more information than necessary

The more information you share, the more accessible you are to a scammer. Before sharing your information with a merchant, take the time to read their privacy policy and validate where your information will be stored and how it will be shared.

This also applies whenever they ask for information not associated with the transaction, such as your ID number, date of birth or any other type of personal document, this is a definite a red flag.

"Trust your instincts."

In the end, use your common sense and trust your instincts. If an offer seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. And if something seems suspicious, remember that you don’t have to complete the purchase, you can terminate the process and close the web page.

By Antuam Traverso – Risk & Fraud Product Manager (Evertec).

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