How to shop online safely

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Sometimes you want something so badly that you are blinded to any red flag. It doesn't just happen in love, but with anything you really like. At any given moment it could be a pair of sneakers, a limited edition vinyl by your favourite DJ or an amazing lens for your camera. In those cases it's hard to recognise that we've been scammed and could have avoided it. 

And that's what the Vivid Blog is here for, to help you be prepared when shopping online. Here’s a handy step-by-step checklist for you to keep in mind when you're ordering.

Before shopping

Rule #1: if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you find an item that is much cheaper than usual or with conditions that are too good, be wary. I'm not saying it couldn't be real - we're proof of how sometimes the best things in life are in fact free - but you should consider it an early warning to check more carefully.

Seek feedback from other customers. A quick and easy way to do this is to look for opinions on online platforms such as Trustedshops or Trustpilot. These reviews are not 100% reliable – there may be fake reviews –, but it can give you an idea of the most common complaints or inconveniences that other consumers may have.

Check if it is an official website of the brand or online shop. The web address in the browser should start with "https://". The "s" at the end is essential because it means that it uses the SSL encryption protocol to transmit data securely. You should also see a closed padlock 🔒 and clicking on it will show you the connection details. Sometimes scammers will create a fake website designed to look like a brand you know. Check for spelling errors or any other red flags that might show you the website doesn’t actually belong to the company you think it does.

Know your rights. Look for their return and exchange policies. It is important that they offer you clear alternatives in case your order does not correspond to what they have described. It is also good for you to know the shipping costs or if you have to pay for the return.

Make sure you can contact the company. Look for their contact details, an email, phone number or chat to contact customer care in case you have any problems. Also check that they have a postal address in case you need to return a product.

Install an antivirus. Keep your computer and smartphone free of malicious software. It may happen that, without your knowledge, some people have access to sensitive information such as your payment details, even if you are connected to a secure network.

Exercise extra caution when buying second-hand. You need to be cautious if you decide to buy through a second-hand selling platform such as eBay. Often these transactions are done in person, but sometimes sellers offer shipping. Some companies act as intermediaries to ship and process payment for items, but in general avoid buying things you haven't physically seen and that don't come with any guarantees. Especially if you are asked to pay by bank transfer.

When purchasing

Avoid public WiFis. Internet hotspots that you find in places like cafes, trains or hotels are not safe for shopping. They are open networks where other users can access your personal data. Instead, use your home WiFi or mobile data, and if you have no other choice, install a VPN.

Don't give more information than necessary. Be wary if you are asked for information such as your date of birth or ID number.

Use unique and secure passwords. If you create a user account to keep track of your orders, don't always use the same password. It is true that passwords are difficult to remember, so a password manager (a reliable one of course) can be useful for this. It goes without saying that we strongly discourage you from using your name, date of birth or combinations of numbers or letters that appear consecutively on your keyboard.

Pro tip! Use a specific pocket and card for your online purchases. Take advantage of the fact that your Vivid account allows you to have multiple pockets and a virtual card for free if you have Vivid Prime or for only €1 if your account is standard. Create a pocket for your online purchases and link a card to it. Before you check out, transfer only the money you need to pay for your purchase or a little more. This way, if for some reason your card information is compromised, you won't have much to lose and you can delete the card and create a new one with different codes.

Pay through official channels. Sometimes scammers on established websites like Amazon will attempt to get you to pay through a bank transfer, or another way that’s outside of the official payment channels of the platform. Never agree to this, always pay through official channels. That way, you’re also protected by the platform’s own policies. 

After placing your order

Check your account regularly. Even if you've already received your package, tickets or other services, it's important to check your transaction timeline in the Vivid app often and review your monthly statements to make sure you've been charged the correct amount and don't have any unrecognised charges.

And in case you have been a victim of a scam, we recommend you to save all the evidence you have (emails, screenshots, contact details, etc.) and report it as soon as possible to your local authorities. 

Good luck in your search for bargains!