Online shopping in South Africa is booming, and for good reasons. It is convenient, enjoyable, there are no parking hassles, and you can get some great deals and bargains. It’s also excellent for periods when you can’t ‘pop out’ all the time. These include coming home with your newborn, when your transport is compromised, or you just don’t have time.
A myriad of items online…
South African online retailers range from large department stores such as Pick n Pay and Woolworths, clothing retailers, second hand goods, electronics, flowers and even specialist items. Shopping around online can give you an excellent idea of what a ‘good price’ for an item might be, as well as the options and features that a product has. You can also shop online for items that you might not be able to get locally, or unique items you might need for a specialist hobby or craft that you enjoy
Whilst most online shopping is generally safe, there are always fraudsters out there eager to get their hands on your hard-earned money! But with a few safety precautions in place, you should be able to shop away to your heart’s content without worry.
Safety precautions when shopping online
- When you are considering using an online portal, it makes sense to search for reviews written by others in terms of their experience with that retailer. Hello Peter is a good place to start (www.hellopeter.com), and if there are a lot of recent complaints you might want to search for alternative providers. To find out more about current scams and hoaxes, you can visit www.reportacrime.co.za, www.cybercrime.org; www.saps.gov.za or www.crimeline.co.za.
- You should only transact on websites that are secure, with a lock image on the toolbar and certificates such as VeriSign and PayU. When you are on a page that requires you to enter credit card or other personal information, look for an ‘s’ after ‘http://’ in the web address of that page – it should read: ‘https://’. This encryption is a security measure that scrambles your data as it is entered.
- It is best to do your online transactions at home or within secure Wi-Fi networks. Transacting using public Wi-Fi spots might make it a little easier for a hacker to gain access to your personal information.
- It can be annoying to constantly update your browser, but it is worth doing, as this will keep your security updated, too. Leave it too long and you might find your information compromised.
- Use strong passwords with at least eight characters and a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and characters. It can be a chore to remember all of these, but using weak passwords could get you into hot water.
- Ensure your computer has strong, updated anti-virus software from a reputable company. Check your bank and credit card statements every month for any suspicious transactions.
- It can be fairly easy for a bogus ‘retailer’ to mimic the design of a respected retailer, so be careful of any offers that sounds too good to be true, or links through to a gateway from social media. It is always best to type the address in yourself. Never email your personal details such as expiry dates and credit card numbers, and never give these out over the phone.
With these few precautions in place, you can make the online world your virtual mall. Do you have any virtual shopping tips that you swear by? Share them with us below and help make shopping online a little safer for all.