safe onine shoppingAn online retailer offer users a wide range of products, but is it safe to buy online? A number of statistics show that E-commerce in South Africa is on the rise. With the increase use of mobile devices this will most probably increase on a year to year basis.

Unfortunately there are still negative perceptions about E-commerce.  Security, among others seems to be a major consideration when buying online.

From a buyers point of view buying online has a number of advantages:

a.    You can browse in the comfort of your own home, at your own time, 24 hours a day.
b.    Considering the price of petrol it might work out considerably cheaper.
c.    Most online retailers will deliver the product to your doorstep via courier or post office within a reasonable amount of time.
d.    You have access to a large amount of product / service categories to choose from.

In addition to the above I would like to add that it is also relatively secure. When you are buying online it will be wise to look at the basics to make sure that your purchase is indeed legitimate and safe:

a.    Look at the fine print, the terms and conditions and the return policy of the retailer. Don’t just except it to be in order.  Make sure you understand the “T&C’s”.   Website owners have to make sure that their websites comply with legislation.
b.    Make sure the company has a valid contact number; a mere form on the contact page is just not enough.
c.    When you are paying with your credit card; ensure that you are in a secure area, you will notice in the address bar of your browser, that the normal http is replaced with https. This indicates that the site is using a secure method of processing your payment. Some websites will also display a security certificate eg Thawte, Verisign and Symantec to name a few.

safe online buying

d.    Some online retailers also offer other forms of payment like debit card payments and direct deposits, use that if you are not comfortable using your credit card.
e.    If you still need convincing do proper research on the company or visit their social media pages to get an idea what other customers said.
f.    If you are still not convinced, bail out, follow your instincts.
g.   Lastly, never, ever respond to any email that prompts you to re-enter any passwords, banking details or download any documents.

You can also check with your bank what security measures they have in place, some banks will detect online credit card payments instantly and will contact you directly to confirm the purchase.

To conclude:

I have asked the question if it is safe to buy online, we might as well ask, is it safe to make a withdrawal at the ATM. That depends on how safe the environment is where you make the withdrawal, no one in their right mind will make a withdrawal late at night in an area that is known for its high crime rate.  The same logic applies when buying online. Make sure that your online “environment” is safe.

Safe shopping!

Author, Fritz Els 15 May 2013