Security tips: How to be aware when shopping online

Online shopping in South Africa is booming. It’s enjoyable and convenient to click your way to great bargains from the comfort of your desk or sofa. Unfortunately, the more things are ‘added to carts’, the more opportunities there are for fraudsters to gain access to your money.

Save your favourites

To avoid typing in the wrong address, it’s a good idea to bookmark your most trusted shopping sites. Ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues, and read online reviews to see if customers have enjoyed a safe shopping experience.

Look for the lock

Only transact on secure websites: Look for the lock image on the toolbar, valid certificates such as VeriSign and secure payment systems such as PayU. When you get to the page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an ‘s’ after ‘http://’ in the web address of that page – it should read: ‘https://’. The encryption is a security measure that scrambles your data as it is entered.

Do your online shopping in safe places

Don’t do your shopping in coffee shops and malls. With public Wi-Fi, there’s a bigger chance for fraudsters to intercept your connection and get hold of your usernames and passwords.

Watch out for strange emails and links

Fraudsters are quite good at mimicking known websites, which enables them to easily create emails with fraudulent links in them that look legitimate. Always be skeptical about offers that seem too good to be true. Certain online ads on social media sites might take you to a fake website that can infect your system with malware. Rule of thumb: rather type in the web address yourself. Also, never send emails that contain personal information such as your card number and expiry date, or supply these details over the phone.

Keep your browser up to date

Those constant updates can be annoying but they are there to keep you safe. Always do system and app updates to lessen the risk of vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

Use strong passwords

Don’t create a password that is easy to guess or hack. Use an 8-digit password combination of upper case letters, symbols and numbers. Did you know that a simple 6-letter password will take a hacker?

10 minutes to crack but the 8-digit one described above would take them 463 years? Get more tips on password security here.

Keep track of your bank statements

Check your statements regularly for any unverified transactions, as well as to ensure that no fraudulent charges are happening on your accounts.

Choose strong antivirus software

Use good quality antivirus software – whether from your bank or reputable providers such as McAfee or Kaspersky Lab.

Use two-factor authentication methods

In the world of online shopping and banking, the OTP (one-time PIN) is your best friend. This is what is called two-factor authentication – when you need another mode of verification (other than your password) to authorize a transaction. You will usually receive an OTP as an SMS on your cellphone.  Technology such as Verified by VISA and Mastercard SecureCode protect both you, the cardholder and the merchant by verifying your personal details during an online purchase.

Teach your kids about online safety

If you have a household of tablets and phones, sharing music and movies between accounts, then it’s a good idea to teach them safety habits too. Remind your teenage kids never to give out personal details over the phone, and to be careful about clicking on email links.

What about buying from Social Media?

Facebook advertising and Facebook marketplace have made it incredibly simple for scammers to target millions of people online. They often setup product ads of real brands with images of actual products.

When you buy from Social Media:

  • Ensure that the Facebook page that you are buying from is a real business.
  • Check reviews on their Facebook/Instagram account.
  • Avoid deals with sellers not based in South Africa.
  • Cross reference the prices that they are offering with other suppliers, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
  • Always check for contact details, if a website selling products does not have a number or a customer service line of contact then avoid dealing with them.

If you have been a victim:

Should you have already made a purchase through a scammer, you need to contact your banking institute immediately. The party that you have paid now has access to all of personal information, including your banking/credit card details.

If you paid using a card it is best to cancel that card with your bank after reporting the fraud to them.

If you have paid via a direct bank transfer then you will still need to report fraud on your account. The possibility of getting your funds returned to you is a long process, but it is possible.

Make sure that you stay abreast of common online scams by visiting these useful websites:, and