How to keep your money safe when you shop online
Protect yourself from fraud with this simple guide.
8 min read
Skipping the queue, huge product selections, and 24hr opening times—there are plenty of great advantages to shopping online. With major retailers like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and Etsy, it’s now possible to order just about anything you need or want online. However, buying online comes with its own set of risks. Read on to get a better idea of what those risks are and how to protect yourself when you shop online.
Why online purchases can derail your budget
Making an online purchase is often as easy as opening an app, choosing a product, and clicking ‘buy now.’ The more sophisticated apps and online shops become, the easier it is to make a purchase. That’s because it’s in the company’s best interests to make your online shopping journey as simple as possible.
While this usually comes with the advantages of a better user experience and a superior product selection, it also encourages you to make more impulsive decisions. This can make it easy to go over budget. The solution? Leave items in your basket for at least half an hour (if possible) before committing to buying them.
This extra 30 minutes should give you enough time to:
- Pause and decide whether you’re making an impulsive purchase.
- Check whether you have enough room in your budget for this item.
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How to buy online safely
While shopping online is convenient, it can be risky if you’re not careful. Knowing how to buy online safely is essential to protecting your money and your private information. Here are some tips to keep in mind next time you’re about to buy something online:
Shop at trusted stores
Avoid making purchases from any unfamiliar sites. Using trusted sites such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, and Etsy gives you more security, since these sites encrypt your credit or debit numbers. They also have standardized return policies in place and—for the most part—more reliable delivery services. What’s more, if you buy through a third party vendor via one of these sites and the vendor turns out to be fraudulent, there are steps already in place to help you claim your money back.
Look for the SSL lock
If you’re not buying from a well-known site, make sure you look for the little lock symbol in the corner of your URL field. This lock is known as the SSL (secure sockets layer) lock and ensures that your private information is being encrypted. Additionally, check the beginning of the URL. If the website is SSL protected, the URL will start with HTTPS, not HTTP. The ‘s’ means the site is secure.
Regularly check your bank statements
To ensure you’ve not been the victim of online shopping fraud, check your bank statements regularly. If your bank details were given to an untrustworthy site, there’s a chance that they could be used to make fraudulent purchases. Make sure to check each transaction.
Clever schemes are occasionally implemented where only small amounts of money are taken from your account regularly to avoid suspicion. But, these incremental amounts can add up over time. Using an online bank like N26 where you receive real-time notifications each time a transaction takes place on your account can help keep you in the know.
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How to buy online from Amazon
Amazon is now the biggest online retailer in the world. Valued at $1.7 trillion, it’s the go-to online shop of choice for a majority of shoppers internationally. But how do you buy items online from Amazon? Here’s how:
- Go to the Amazon website.
- Click on the ‘Account and Lists’ drop-down menu at the top of the screen. If you don’t already have an account at Amazon, you’ll need to click beneath the big ‘Sign in’ button and select ‘Start here.’
- Fill out the registration form including your shipping and billing information and create an account.
- Use the search bar at the top of the screen to search for a product you want to buy.
- Once selected, add that item to the cart. You can leave items in the cart for as long as you like, but Amazon may remove the item or adjust its price based on its availability.
- Once you’re ready to purchase this item, click ‘Proceed to checkout.’
- Choose your shipping address and the payment method you’d like to use.
- Choose a delivery option then click ‘Place your order.’
- You’ll then receive a confirmation of your order. If you change your mind, you have a 30-minute window to cancel your order without incurring a charge.
How to buy online from eBay
eBay is the world’s largest online auction site. If you’ve got an eye for a bargain, it’s a thrift shopper’s paradise, but you’ll also be able to find brand-new items for sale there, too. If you’re not in the mood to wait for the results of an auction, you often have the option to purchase an item right away. Here’s how to buy online on eBay safely and securely:
- You can buy items from eBay as a guest without creating an account as long as the item costs less than $5,000, and you can use the ‘Buy it now’ function—which means you buy it right away rather than waiting for an auction.
- To bid for items in an auction, you’ll need to create an eBay account. To do so, go to the eBay website, and click on ‘Register’ in the top left-hand corner.
- Create an account by either manually entering your details or by signing in with your Facebook, Google, or Apple ID.
- Once you’ve created your account, you can start bidding for items you find on the site.
- If you win an auction, you will pay the seller via either PayPal, credit card, debit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay. The seller decides which options they’d like to use, but all products are purchasable via PayPal. If you’re planning on using eBay regularly, it’s a good idea to set yourself up with a PayPal account if you don’t already have one.
- Delivery times will vary depending on the seller. However, if your order never arrives, eBay offers a money-back guarantee.
How to buy online from Alibaba
Alibaba is a little different from Amazon and eBay as it is primarily a B2B marketplace where the typical consumers are retailers buying products to resell for their businesses. Based in China but available in over 190 countries, Alibaba has millions of sellers worldwide. Here’s how to buy online from Alibaba:
- To buy from an Alibaba seller, you’ll need to create an account. To do this, simply go to the site then click on ‘Join for free,’ which is just to the right of the search bar.
- Then, enter your details to set up your account.
- Search for some items to buy. Simply use the search bar at the top of the page—it works just like a search engine. You can even upload an image of a product you’d like to buy and the Alibaba search feature will identify some matching results.
- Once you find an item you’d like to buy, be sure to check the supplier’s verified reviews to see if they are a trustworthy vendor.
- Next, you can either negotiate the price with the seller using the ‘Contact Supplier’ or ‘Chat Now!’ buttons, or you can click to buy right away. However, you can only choose this option if the product is labeled ‘Ready to Ship’ and has a ‘Start Order’ button on the top of the page.
- Then, simply order the product and wait for it to arrive. Shipping times vary depending on the seller.
How to buy online from Etsy
Unlike Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba, Etsy focuses on selling handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. If you’re looking for an item with a personal touch, Etsy has over 72 million products on offer, so you’re bound to find a unique seller offering just the item you’re looking for. Here’s how to buy online from Etsy:
- To start, go to the Etsy homepage and click on ‘Register.’ Here, you can either type in your details manually or sign up with your Facebook, Google, or Apple ID.
- Find your perfect product by using the search bar. If you want to shop locally, you can locate sellers in your area by changing your search preferences under the ‘Shop location’ menu.
- Once you find the item you want, you can either select ‘Buy it now’ to purchase it immediately, or you can add it to your cart.
- When you’re ready to buy, proceed to the checkout. Each seller chooses which payment and shipping methods they prefer, so be sure to check what these are before committing to making a purchase.
The bank account that gives you more control
Your money at N26
If you’re looking for a safe way to shop online, N26 has got you covered. We send you push notifications every time a transaction is made on your account—this means you can catch any transactions you didn’t make yourself as soon as they happen. Also, your N26 Mastercard is protected with 3D Secure technology, meaning some important transactions will have to go through 2-factor authentication before they can be processed. If something looks suspicious, you can lock your card in the app and our Customer Support team will replace your card. We also have a claims process in place to help you get a refund for any fraudulent transactions. Visit our plans page to find the account option that’s right for you.
How do I report debit card fraud?
Most banks will have a phone number you can call, or if you bank online, you may be able to message your bank through your app. At N26, we have a dedicated Customer Support team on hand to deal with any security questions you may have. Customers should report debit card fraud to Customer Support as soon as possible, who will act quickly to protect your money.
What is a Mastercard SecureCode?
This is a one-time use code generated through Mastercard SecureCode technology, for added security for card holders. This 3D Secure process is an additional way to authenticate the identity of the card owner by providing the code at checkout. It is usually sent via SMS to the user’s cell phone.
Are online payments safe?
All online payment methods should be digitally encrypted, protecting your account and personal data. At N26, each transaction goes through several layers of security, and every Mastercard debit card is 3D Security-enabled with a Mastercard SecureCode.
How do I know if my virtual card is safe to use?
All virtual debit and credit cards should be electronically encrypted to give you security from banking fraud. With N26, all our cards are 3D Secure enabled with Mastercard SecureCode, which ensures your identity gets verified when making online payments.
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