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Buyer Beware: the Risks of Online Shopping

So far, the only online shopping I have done during the pandemic is for chocolate (this is both on- and off-brand for me). Sometimes I want to go the mall (mostly just for something to do), and I know I am not the only one. Without that option, people are increasingly turning to online shopping. (Wondering how Amazon is faring in all this? Click here.) There are debates about the ethics of it, but no matter how we feel about online shopping, it is, for some, the only option.

How can you, as the consumer, online shop safely?

  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop. This might be a non-issue right now considering there are not a lot of public places one can be, but make sure to use private, secured Wi-Fi connections whenever you will be accessing or transmitting personal or confidential information.
  • Shop on your personal computer, not a work one. Many people are working from home right now, and it may seem easier to use your work computer to shop online, but doing so puts even more information at risk.
  • Install an antivirus software. This is important for all internet users, whether they are online shopping or not!
  • Keep your operating system up-to-date. Install updates as they are offered to as they often include security upgrades.
  • Shop only on reputable sites. Do some research before shopping to see what other customers have to say about the experience. Remember: if a deal seems too good to be true, it might be. Fake retail sites may advertise extreme sales in order to collect your personal information.
  • Be especially careful with international sites. The Government of Canada warns that items purchased may not meet Canadian Safety Standards.
  • Before inputting any personal information, check the address bar/URL. If there is an image of a lock on the left-hand side of the address bar, and/or the site’s URL starts with https:// (the “s” is the important part), the site should be safe to shop on.
  • Read the privacy policy of the website. You may be able to opt out of being sent promotional offers and having your information shared with other parties.
  • Don’t click on ads unless you know where they will take you! Fake ads can take you to sites where your security may be compromised. Not sure about an ad? Hover your mouse over it, and look to the bottom of your screen. The URL of the website the ad links to will appear. If it’s not what you thought, or seems fishy, don’t click on the ad!
  • Have a separate credit card dedicated to online shopping, so if it needs to be cancelled, you will still have access to credit. Keep the limit on the online shopping card low, so if it’s used fraudulently the impact will be limited, and check your statements carefully and regularly to ensure you notice any unusual activity right away.

Cybercrime has increased due to the pandemic, so be especially vigilant when online shopping right now!

Morgan Thomas, BA (Dtn.)
Project Management & Customer Experience Coordinator

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