Online shopping is easy, convenient, and fast, but it is also fraught with risks for the uninitiated. Hence, it is essential to safeguard yourself before heading online to find that perfect gift for a loved one.

While you won’t be surrounded by crowds of people when shopping online, that does not mean that you are not still at risk of having your pocket picked. Criminals online are just as savvy as they are in the real world.

However, that does not mean shopping online needs to be a harrowing experience, and if you follow these useful tips, you will be able to have a safe and secure online shopping experience.

Only Use Secure Websites

To shop online, you need to enter some fairly sensitive information onto the website you want to purchase, such as payment details and a delivery address. If you don’t take care to only transact with safe websites and online brands, that information can very easily fall into the wrong hands.

The quickest and easiest way to double-check if a website is secure is to have an ‘HTTPS:’ at the start of its URL rather than just ‘HTTP:’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’, so it is automatically more safe than the other internet protocol.

If you are unsure where to check between HTTP and HTTPS or if for any other reason you are uncertain about a website you want to shop on, take a couple of minutes to do some research. You’re online already, after all.

Use Safe Payment Processors

In order to stay safe while shopping online, you must research as much as possible about the payment processor that the seller is offering. Do your homework and ensure that you are on the safe side and that the payment processor is trustworthy and legitimate.

For instance, PayPal is one of the top payment processors worldwide. It is a payment mechanism designed from the ground up to operate safely and securely online. It has become the go-to choice for shoppers, and it is used by more than 286 million people worldwide. It is so popular, and various industries have been adopting it. For example, giant retailers like Amazon and Shopify are providing this convenient payment method to their customers.

On-demand streaming services in the entertainment industry like Netflix and Disney+ have also utilized this option for their subscribers. And it is the preferred payment method in the iGaming industry too, and many brands that are featured on the PayPal casino listing sites such as Unibet and bet365 are offering it to its players.

Update All Your Software

Merely installing an antivirus program does not mean you are instantly and forever protected from any evil online. Just about any piece of software installed on your computer that needs to connect to the internet for any reason can be a security risk. This includes any browser attachments you might have installed to Google Chrome, such as an ad-blocker.

Hackers and criminals online are continually evolving their methods and tactics. Companies that produce software for use online are in a never-ending battle to stay one step ahead of them. This battle involves them finding security weaknesses in their program and patching them out to make it safer. If you have a piece of software that asks to be updated every time you boot up your PC, and you’ve been clicking “remind me later” for the last six months, that is a massive security risk.

Windows comes with pretty robust anti-virus and anti-hacking software for home use, so at the very least, make sure your operating system is fully updated before venturing online.

Be Extra Wary Of Scams

Phishing, email scams, credit card scams, the internet is lousy with people who want to steal your money. It isn’t nice to think about, but it is nevertheless true and ignoring that fact is the easiest way to get scammed.

When shopping online, you need to be super vigilant of nefarious dealings. If an offer seems too good to be true, chances are very high that it is. While you can often find better deals for things online, you won’t be able to buy a house for the price of a car.

Scams get especially prevalent around the holidays, where criminals send out “special offers” with viruses and malware attached to the links in an email. Do NOT click links in any email or on any website unless you know and trust the source. Nothing on the internet is worth having your details stolen over. Make sure and if you can’t make sure, walk away. There will always be another deal.

Avoid Online Shopping In Public Places

Free wifi hotspots can feel like a gift from the gods at times, but that does not mean they are safe places to do your online shopping. You know how easy it is to connect to a free wifi hotspot? It’s that easy for hackers too, and they probably know a heck of a lot more about the technology than you.

This isn’t a warning to get people to stop using hotspots altogether; on the contrary, it is just a warning to be careful about what you do online when you are at one of these public spaces. The problem is that the connection is entirely unsecure, so any information sent over it can be seen. Checking the latest news headlines, listening to music, or finding out if your favorite restaurant has an open booking is acceptable. Logging on to your internet banking or inserting your credit card details is not.