It’s never good to bring pessimism and cynicism to the table or to be a merchant of doom, but sometimes facts have to be faced: the online world has some extremely dark corners and plenty of ambuscades to catch the unwary. When you’re online you’ve got to be the virtual equivalent of street-smart, particularly when money is introduced to the equation. There are some easy precautions you can take though without having to invest too much of your time in watching your back.
Avoid public places for purchases
Sometimes using a public place for a purchase is unavoidable, particularly if one is on the move or travelling, but generally it’s best to avoid making transactions online from anywhere in the least bit public. What this means in practice is avoiding internet cafes, libraries, campuses and of course free Wi-Fi hotspots.
The problem with public places is two-fold. Firstly there’s the basic issue of forgetting to log out. This can apply to the user account (which sounds unfeasibly goofy but is in fact more common than you’d think) or less obviously to particular websites. Worst of all, and the one that gets most unwary web surfers, is neglecting to un-tick those ordinarily helpful “remember me” boxes. This means that the next user is taken straight to your private little realm!
Secondly, Wi-Fi hotspots won’t necessarily be well protected with appropriate anti-viral software. If you think for a moment in business terms about little cafes and public libraries then it becomes clear that they won’t always have the inclination or resources to invest in decent protection packages. Even if they do, the inherent gap between the router and any connected devices is dangerous.
Only make transactions using reliable websites
In the real world we instinctively steer clear of market stalls that are falling to pieces and food shops that emit an unpleasant aroma. Instead we gravitate towards bright, fresh smelling shops that have a familiar brand name and a good reputation. In the virtual world we often tend to drop our instinctive behaviour… but we shouldn’t!
Go with the sites that have the little green padlock symbol next to the URL. If you’re shopping then go with a name that you can trust such as Amazon or EBay. If you’re gaming or betting then go with the guys everyone has heard of and look to see if they use legitimate forms of payment such as PayPal before you commit to anything. With online gambling in particular it’s good to take advantage of connoisseur sites too that can recommend reliable brands such as Betsafe and Mr Green, as well as the best sign up bonus and new member deals currently on the gaming market.
Be wary of e-scammers
There’s a definite tendency to think of oneself as too intelligent to fall for a scam, but scammers are a more conniving breed than you’d believe. It’s not only the very young or the very elderly who fall foul of today’s tricksters, and the very fact that general guides such as this one exist just goes to prove what a widespread problem this really is. The classic advice is that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is. This is just as applicable to e-commerce today as to the postal scams and pyramid schemes of previous decades and sadly falls on just as many deaf ears!