Here’s how to shop safely
Follow these 6 golden rules to shop safely online:
1. Only use websites that you know
The safest way to shop online remains shopping on websites that you already know. This means that you should:
- Type in the address of the online shop in your browser yourself.
- Do not click on a link in an e-mail. Check the underlying address first. To do so, move your cursor over the link. The address will appear in a pop-up.
- Do not click on adverts that appear to come from a well-known web shop and in which well-known Belgians recommend products.
- Also watch out for ads in search engine results, recognisable by 'ADV' next to the link. These too are often misleading.
- If you do click on a link in an e-mail or advertisement, always check the URL of the website you are taken to. Look carefully at the web address in your browser's address bar. Watch out for spelling mistakes such as AMAZ0N (a zero instead of an O), cooIblue (a capital I (i) instead of an L), or a wrong domain extension (bol.net instead of bol.com for example).
2. Research a new webshop
You find the item at a new online shop. But you're not sure if it's reliable? Then put your sleuthing talent to work:
- A reliable shop clearly states contact details, physical location and a VAT number.
- Is it a Belgian store? Check with the Crossroads Bank for Belgian Enterprise (KBO) whether the VAT number mentioned does indeed belong to this company. Or do the test at Webshop Check.
- Is it a shop from another European country? Look up the company in the EU Business Register.
- Also check the terms and conditions for shipping and returns.
- Visit its social media accounts. Does the online shop respond to complaints?
- Check the shop's reputation. Read the reviews on the website, although it's best not to rely on these alone. Or enter the shop's name in Google to find any negative comments.
- Does the webshop have a quality mark from BeCommerce (Belgium and Luxembourg) or Stichting Thuiswinkel (the Netherlands)? This may boost your confidence.
- Are the texts correct? Fraudsters often run (English) texts through translation machines so you get crooked sentences.
3. No lock, no purchase
A reliable webshop makes sure that you can shop safely, preferably by using https:// connections.
- You can recognise https:// connections thanks to the closed lock at the left of the address bar.
- Never enter confidential data such as a name and password on a website without a secure connection. And certainly not your credit card details!
- Don't give too much information either, only what the shop needs to send you your parcel. There is no reason for a shop to ask for your social security number, for example.
4. Take care of the security on your side
You too can do a lot to make shopping safer:
- Do not use unprotected public Wi-Fi networks in, for example, coffee shops, the airport, .... Others can then monitor your communications and intercept your e-mails or passwords. Use your operator's mobile network as much as possible.
- If you do have to use a public Wi-Fi network, work with a (Virtual Private Network). This is a kind of digital tunnel through which your internet traffic passes. It then becomes invisible to others. You create a VPN account with a provider and pay for it. Find out in advance about the various options and prices.
- Use strong passwords. The rule is: if you can remember it easily, criminals can easily crack your password.
- Preferably work with a password manager. This creates separate, hard-to-crack passwords for each site you visit. You only have to enter the master password once on your desktop browser, your smartphone or tablet. Then, on each site, the tool automatically fills in your login and password. Read more about the importance of a good password.
- Create a different password for each website or account.
- Make sure your computer is always up-to-date. Install security updates to your browser, mail or other programmes as soon as they come out.
- Don't believe in fairy tales: products offered at un-believable prices are usually also not real. Comparing product prices with other websites is healthy. But beware of websites where the product is offered at rock-bottom prices. Perhaps the product is out of stock, the fraudster just wants to get his hands on your details (and money!).
5. Additional measures to ensure secure payments
When you pay with a credit card, this sometimes has advantages. In some cases, you will not have to pay fraudulent charges on your card. The disadvantage is that anyone who knows your credit card number (and security code) can make purchases on your behalf. Try the following alternatives:
- Work with a virtual credit card. You can buy a temporary credit card at De Post-La Poste, among others, for a certain amount. Or buy a payment card for web services like iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, etc. at the local shop. That way, the web shop never finds out your real credit card details.
- Many shops have their own app for smartphones. In the app, you can not only shop but also pay securely without having to surf to the website.
- Apple Pay creates a one-time authentication code for each purchase. This way, you don't have to give your credit details to the shop. Many online shops also accept Google Pay when you surf on your mobile.
- If you do work with your credit card, don't wait until your monthly statement to check everything. Follow up regularly (weekly) on which payments are booked from your account.
Be extra suspicious when the web shop does not offer the traditional payment methods (Credit Card, Bancontact, PayPal, ...) and asks for payment in advance!
6. And what if it still goes wrong?
Sometimes things can still go wrong. You ordered and paid for a parcel, but never received it. What now?
- Keep all order confirmations in a central place. You need those details. Because this will allow your credit card company to investigate your complaint.
- Contact the shop and submit your complaint. If you don't get an immediate response to your e-mail, contact them by phone - a personal conversation always helps.
- Check on social media whether the online shop handles complaints this way. If it does, submit your complaint. But keep it civil, an abusive tone doesn't help anyone!
- If you have fallen for a fake seller, lodge a complaint with the relevant services. You can find the addresses here.
- Also leave a review on the website to alert other users.
A healthy dose of distrust when shopping online can't hurt. But don't let that spoil your fun! Happy shopping!
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