Shopping safely on the internet: 7 tips

Have you ever bought something on the Internet and paid for it online? Usually, all of this is perfectly safe. But we still advise you to be extra vigilant and to pay attention to certain things when you shop online. Here are seven tips for safe online shopping.

1. Use your common sense

Have you had good experiences with a certain web shop? Do you know people who are satisfied with a certain online store? Then stay loyal to it.

Be critical and do not believe in fairy tales. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of products offered at incredible prices and beware of websites where the product is offered at rock bottom prices. The product may not be in stock, and the intention may simply be to get hold of your data.

2. Check the web address

In any case, watch out for fake websites. There are criminals who will try to trick you. They do this by subtly changing the spelling or the domain name of the web store. Bol.net is not the well-known web shop and coo1blue.be or coolblu.be are not the domain names of the well-known online electronics store, but you would click on the link if you weren't careful.

3. No padlock, no purchase

A good way to check if a website is secure is to see if the url - that's what you type into your browser to surf to a website - starts with https:// and not with http://. The 's' stands for 'secure' or safe.

On a secure website (https) you will also see a padlock where you type the name of the website. Never enter confidential data, such as your name and password, on a website without that padlock. And certainly not your credit card information!

In any case, be a little suspicious and give as little information about yourself as possible. Only give what the store needs to send you your package - there is no reason for a web shop to ask for your social security number, for example.

"If you can remember it easily, criminals can easily crack your password."

4. Use strong passwords

Besides paying close attention to which websites you visit; you can do a lot to protect your security and privacy online:

  • Use strong passwords everywhere. Read more about the importance of a strong password. 
  • Choose a different password for each website or account and make them sufficiently complicated. The rule is: if you can remember it easily, criminals can easily crack your password.
  • There are computer programs that securely remember your passwords or create new ones for you each time, called password managers. Examples are LastPass and Dashlane. They can both be downloaded for free. The only password you will still have to remember, is the one of your password manager. Most passwordmanagers also have an app that you can use on your smartphone. 

5. Use trusted wireless networks

Be careful when connecting to free public wifi - a network without a password - outdoors. It happens more and more often that in the train station, in stores, in airports... you can access a wifi network that is publicly accessible. This is convenient but at the same time anyone can access it. There is a chance that cybercriminals are using this same internet connection to monitor your activities.

If possible, use the mobile network of your operator. And when you do connect to a public Wi-Fi network, you should preferably use a VPN solution. This is a kind of digital tunnel through which your internet traffic passes, and which is not visible to others. You can make a VPN-account with your provider and you will likely have to pay for it. Do inform yourself about the different possibilities and the prizing. Here you can already find some reviews. 

6. Keep everything up to date

  • Make sure your computer and other devices you use to go online, and their operating systems are always up to date. Install security updates for the programs on your computer immediately and make sure you always use the latest version of your antivirus program.
  • Criminals know all too well where the leaks are in older programs and operating systems, so they can gain access to your computer, tablet or phone. Therefore, keep your operating system up to date by having updates installed automatically. Or have someone do it for you.
  • Also, always use a recent browser - that's the program you use to surf the Internet. Chrome, Safari and Firefox, among others, regularly release new versions that close old security gaps and introduce new security measures.  

7. Choose stores with a quality label

Check whether you can find a label on the website which indicates that it is a safe web shop. In Belgium, for example, it is BeCommerce, in the Netherlands Thuiswinkel Waarborg. This label means that official bodies guarantee that the store is safe.

In addition, you can also check the following things:

  • A reliable store clearly states contact information, physical location, VAT number.
  • Also check the conditions for shipping and return of orders.
  • Check the reputation of the store. Read reviews from other customers on the website or enter the name of the online store in Google, to find any negative comments.

And what if things go wrong?

Sometimes things can still go wrong, even though you've been paying close attention. You've ordered and paid for a package, but never received it. What do you do then?

  • Keep all order confirmations. If things go wrong, you will need this information, for example, to have the matter investigated by your credit card company.
  • Contact the web store and explain your complaint. If you do not get an immediate response to your e-mail, contact them by phone - a personal conversation always helps.
  • Have you fallen for a fake seller? File a complaint. You can find the addresses here.
  • Also leave a comment on the store's website. That way you can warn other users.