We all shop online. It’s easy.
You take your time browsing, you’re not bound by store times, annoying salespeople, you can leave stuff in your basket for days while you think about it, and delivery is generally pretty simple.
But here is a precautionary tale…
A man was online shopping for an RV. He lived in a remote area, meaning online was the best option for him. After several days of intensive research, he found what he thought was an incredible deal. He got very excited, contacted the website and e-mailed to ask if they would hold the RV for him. They replied via e-mail, asked for a down payment as a deposit and swore faithfully they would keep it back for him. They signed the e-mail ‘The Team’.
He duly paid them $3000 via bank wire.
They agreed on a plan and he was to travel to the company, located in a different State. He would have a look at the van and if he liked it – pay the full amount and drive it away. If he didn’t like it, he would get his money back.
Can you guess what happened next?
He arrived at the address to find it was nothing but an empty flat. No RVs, no smiling salesperson; nothing.
The $3000 deposit that he transferred via bank wire? Gone.
The entire website was a scam.
In 2017, online shopping fraud rose by 30%. 16.7 million people were victims of identity theft.
All of us are potential fraud victims.
To avoid falling prey to online scammers – irrespective of whether you have a VPN or not – it’s wise to do the following and have this mantra seared into your brain: If in doubt – click out!
- Always check the website has https. This means the site is secure, and all information is encrypted up to a certain level.
- When inputting payment details, always check there is a lock symbol in the URL bar and the site uses a secure payment system.
- Never purchase from a site that asks for bank transfers.
- If you can, always use a credit card as they are generally insured against fraud.
- Read the reviews of the site you are on. Are they genuine?
- Look for contact details and methods of contact. If these look suspect, they probably are.
- Shopping on social media – watch out for the shortened URLs, they are easier to fake.
- Don’t use public WIFI to shop online unless you have a VPN.
- Don’t use free VPN.
Before you say – yeah, you’re a VPN site… you would say that, wouldn’t you….
The truth is a free VPN is not as secure as a paid VPN. There are reports showing that free VPN can leak data, and in worse case scenarios they don’t even do the basic job of encrypting your data!
Why use a VPN for online shopping if we can do the above?
Because you are taking your security and privacy up to the next level. Remember the statistics at the start of this post? A VPN means gaining peace of mind and probably avoiding becoming part of those numbers.
A VPN Hides your IP address and encrypts your data, making it very hard for the hackers and fraudsters.
Plus, you can get past local censorship, both here and abroad.
You might be traveling and doing a spot of online shopping. Using a VPN will give you access to websites anywhere that might have been blocked due to EU privacy laws or local laws that restrict certain website access.
Using a VPN protects you when abroad and you have no option but to use the public WIFI; be that in the cozy Airbnb you’ve rented, the hotel lobby or the café you are in.
Public WIFI is not secure.
With public and free WIFI, the data may well be transferred unencrypted, which means all your sensitive information – think logins, passwords, messenger etc., will be available to a hacker that might be sitting at the next table to you. Hackers only need to be within range of the wireless network to hack into it.
And hack into it they do.
Think of hackers as guys with fishing nets swimming around in cyberspace. They cast around the web with their net and pick up your non-secure information.
When you send your credit card details to a website – a hacker, if skilled enough and the website isn’t secure, can fish for your details with his net, grab them and use them. This means you don’t get your purchase, it might even mean you’re defrauded in other ways.
The result could be spending valuable time, probably more money, (and let’s not even think about the emotional energy spent) chasing credit card companies and the online shop to prove that you have been defrauded.
If we go back to our unfortunate RV man…
Had he at least followed the steps mentioned above, he would not have been scammed and lost $3000.
Had he had a VPN, he would have known the above rules, known how these scams operate and would have had peace of mind when shopping. He would know that his chances of being defrauded had dropped significantly.
Because let’s face it, this is what it’s ultimately about.
A VPN is a very practical piece of kit with the added bonuses of reducing your stress, reducing your risk and increasing your peace of mind.
You can easily become that smart online shopper that knows what to look for, has that mental checklist, and has an extra level of security with a VPN on your mobile, tablet, and/or laptop. Your VPN will keep you safe each and every time you buy something online, no matter where in the world you are.
Let’s say you are in Asia doing that longed-for trip. Your dog sitter (we are pretending you now have a dog and a dog sitter) messages you and says – “Hey! Fido is out of dry biscuits – please order more. Smiley face, smiley face, dog emoji.”
Now, being a hip dude, you order only the best and that means an organic dog food company based in Alaska.
The only WIFI available to you is the free hotel one. Not good, as you need to input your credit card details and other personal information.
Being in Asia, you’re not sure if your organic dog food man’s website is on the banned list because well, it’s not the USA and they have different internet censorship rules.
But you have a VPN – so the public WIFI is not a problem, nor is being abroad, meaning Fido will get his delightful, non-GMO, fully free-range and organic dog biscuits. The VPN hides who you are and where you are and all the information you send over the net. Only the recipient – in this case, our dog food man in Alaska, will get the information he needs in order to process your order.
And finally – how can it be cheaper?
Well, some websites, depending upon your browsing history, which device you use, your previous purchases and even your zip code – will charge you more for goods?
It’s called dynamic pricing.
It’s perfectly legal.
Have you ever browsed for an airline ticket, got the price, logged off, logged back in 5 minutes later and the price has gone up?
That’s dynamic pricing.
Online retailers get your browsing information and weaponize it against you.
There is advice on how to combat this. One piece is to use a separate browser for looking and researching, then when you know what you want to buy, switch to a different browser for the actual purchases. This way you leave less of a trail. You can also disable third-party cookies and a host of other stuff.
Or, you could simply get a VPN, drop all the hassle and never think about the possibility of being a victim of dynamic pricing ever again.
Using a VPN means companies won’t know who’s using their site, from which device, or what you have bought before because it will all be beautifully encoded and dynamic pricing won’t apply to you.
You’ll get that airline ticket at a decent price!
P.S. You’ll notice that we have https, we have a lock symbol in the URL, we have fantastic customer support that’s 24/7, we have a secure payment system, we don’t want your bank details and we only provide paid VPN, because we care about our customers this summer, next summer, in fact each and every time they shop online, no matter where in the world they are.