A Guide to Safe Online Shopping

tips for safe online shopping

Online shopping is a great way to get whatever you need without having to hunt for it in person. From huge retailers like Amazon to small retailers (such as the individual stores on Etsy), there’s something that caters to your needs, no matter how niche or “strange.”

Non-cash payment options, such as credit cards, online wallets, and even virtual checks are very common nowadays. This means it’s very easy to buy online. That simplicity, however, can easily be your downfall. If you’re not careful when you shop at some online stores, someone could steal your personal or payment information and use it to commit fraud.

Obviously, that’s the last thing you want. However, online shopping can be safe, simple, and easy. Just make sure you take certain precautions along the way:

  • Make sure the site is secure
  • Verify product images
  • Keep an eye on your information after buying
  • Look into the company selling the product(s) you want to buy

Ensure the Site Itself Has Good Security

It doesn’t matter how well-meaning the owners of an online shopping site may be. If the site itself isn’t secure, hackers can get your information as it passes from your computer into the site’s data banks.

The first thing you should do is make sure the site has an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer certificate), which encrypts the data you send. Rather than sending your personal and payment information in plain text, which is easy to intercept and use against you, a site with an SSL certificate helps to ensure that your information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Do Some Reverse Image Searches

If an online shopping site isn’t actually selling anything, or it’s selling cheap knock-off products, it won’t have real items to photograph and put up on its website. Instead, the site could source preview images from somewhere else, likely from other (more reputable) websites.

If you perform a reverse image search, you may be able to see if the pictures are original. It’s especially important to do this if the pictures don’t look like they’re all coming from the same source.

Knock-off stores generally offer a variety of incongruous products, and so may source their images from various genuine stores. As such, the images could all look different.

Watch Your Personal Information After Buying

Even if you’re buying from a site with an SSL certificate and there have been no obvious warning signs, there’s still the possibility that someone could intercept the information you’ve submitted and use it against you.

Whenever you make a purchase from a new online store, make sure you keep an eye on any payment methods you used. You need to be able to notice if there’s any suspicious activity as soon as it happens.

It’s not very likely that you will end up having a problem. But if you do, it’s important to tackle it as soon as it happens.

Research the Company You’re Buying From

Sometimes, it’s hackers and scammers that you have to worry about. But other time, the actual companies that try to sell you these items can be just as dangerous. Whether you end up getting a knock-off item that isn’t worth what you paid for it, or the company has no intention of sending you anything in the first place, unscrupulous companies are an important thing to watch for.

If the company isn’t well-known to you, you would be wise to check them out before completing a purchase. Do a bit of research, and find out the names of the company owners if you can. Then, perform a people search on those names.

Do these people exist? Are they located in the area the site claims? You can also perform an address lookup on any locations that the site lists for headquarters, return centers, distribution centers, or warehouses. Are these addresses owned by the people who claim to run the business? Do the addresses even exist?

By performing this little extra bit of research, you can attempt to answer all these questions and feel safer when you make your online shopping purchases.


There’s no surefire way to avoid even the possibility of having your personal data intercepted online. However, by taking some very simple common sense precautions, you can at least attempt to decrease your chances significantly. You can also ensure that if something does happen, you can catch it relatively quickly.

No matter what you’re planning to buy, be sure to do a little research before you make your purchase. Know who you’re buying from. It’s the best way to keep your personal information to yourself, avoid wasting money on scammers, and have a generally great online shopping experience.

For more information about online shopping and other ways to keep your digital identity safe, be sure to read the PeopleFinders Blog.

Image attribution: pogonici – stock.adobe.com

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