Explore a comprehensive guide to secure online payments, ensuring your safety while shopping on the internet.
Ensure your online safety with our actionable tips, especially during the run-up to Christmas. #readyr #onlinescam #safepayments #digitalpayment #financialtips At Readyr, we equip our community with the knowledge and resources to thrive. 

Movies and TV often depict hackers and cybercriminals as geniuses who type a few commands into a computer and thus hack everything from the US government to your personal bank account. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Hacking is highly challenging to achieve, and so is online fraud. When attempting to commit online fraud, cybercriminals typically resort to tried and tested methods that depend heavily on a lack of knowledge. These methods aren’t particularly sophisticated. 

By knowing the following tips, you can significantly secure yourself from falling victim to online payment scams. 

Nine tips to pay safely online 

Only two factors can make paying for something online risky:

  1. Criminal activity. 
  2. Poor customer service or company reputation. 

In the following tips, we’ll show you how to address both. 

1. “Phishing”—the most important thing to know about paying securely online

“Phishing” is the most common way cybercriminals cheat people out of funds online. 

“Phishing” could also be called “portraying a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The word refers to any email or website fraudulently attempting to impersonate a legitimate business. 

Anybody can create a website that looks legitimate on the outside, but the website address is the giveaway, as displayed in the screenshot below. 

Criminals can get quite clever at attempting to hide the fraudulent address, such as using minor typographical errors, or in other subtle ways, such as:

  • (two Ls)
  • (a hyphen)
  • (always look at the text just before the “.com” or “”)

Rule: Always look carefully at the website address before paying online, or typing in any personal details. 

2. Certificates and secure connections

Only ever pay online through secure, encrypted connections that have verified their identity and received a security certificate. This is usually indicated on the website by a padlock or green box that says “secure” or similar wording. 

You can also click the padlock for more information about the secure connection. 

Caution: Sometimes, the padlock appears with a red warning or X. That means the connection is potentially insecure, and you shouldn’t pay online through that website. 

3. Take your time

Be wary of urgent messages, particularly those of an alarming nature. 

Cybercrime typically picks up during the holiday season as people hunt for bargains and deals. Many companies send legitimate emails out advertising specials and last-minute deals.  

Criminals do try to capitalise on this. However, the urgency factor commonly applies to scams such as unpaid debts or bank fees. Criminals will often use scare tactics in these communications to elicit a response. 

Rule of thumb: Banks and reputable businesses almost never send out alarming, urgent emails that demand payment for services. They’ll typically contact you through the post for such communications. 

Rule of thumb: Be extremely wary and suspicious of alarming emails demanding payment for anything. 

4. Use known payment platforms

Stick with known payment platforms and providers such as Stripe, GoCardless, PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, Klarna, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other well-established companies. It’s virtually impossible for criminals to receive payments through such providers, at least not for very long. 

Regulations require these payment providers to conduct rigorous security checks on anyone attempting to receive payments through their platforms. The providers are also typically required to return your funds if they inadvertently allowed a scammer to use their platform. 

5. For now, never pay with crypto

Crypto isn’t inherently bad, but insufficient regulation exists to make it a completely safe payment form for everybody. 

If a known payment provider, such as those listed above, provides a crypto option, that should be fine. This point applies mainly to any service that asks you to connect your crypto wallet and pay them directly, without any intermediary. 

6. Try to avoid public WiFi connections

Public WiFi connections are far more secure these days than 10 years ago, but they still pose potential risks for less tech-savvy users. As a rule of thumb, turn your WiFi off and use your mobile connection to effect a payment in a public area. 

If you absolutely must pay through a public WiFi network, ensure the secure padlock symbol is there before paying, as covered in point #2 above. If the symbol exists, click it and look for any anomalies, such as those displayed below: 

7. Verify merchant reputation

Many legitimate businesses set up ecommerce stores and take all the necessary steps to ensure a safe online payment process. To avoid all online purchases completely would be a disservice to these merchants. 

However, if you’re paying to a business you’ve never worked with before, conduct some online research before purchasing. You can do things such as:

  • Looking up the business’s name on the Companies House website. 
  • Searching for public reviews, such as on TrustPilot or Google Business. 
  • Contacting any business representatives through social media or by phone. 
  • Looking for a physical address on their website and verifying that it’s legitimate. 

8. Use disposable cards

Many online banks now allow you to create temporary, disposable cards for one-off purchases. If you’re satisfied that your current purchase will be secure but are concerned about potential future charges to your card, create a disposable card inside your payment app and then get rid of it once you’ve completed the purchase. 

9. Use credit cards instead of debit cards for larger purchases

In the UK, consumers are protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act of 1974. 

If you purchase an item between £100 and £30,000, the credit card company shares a liability if the merchant breaches their contract with you for that purchase. For example, if you buy a faulty product and the merchant refuses to replace or repair it, the credit card company shares the responsibility for refunding you.

The single item must be between £100 and £30,000 to be eligible for this protection. Two items that individually cost less than £100 but sum up to more than £100 in the same purchase wouldn’t be valid. 

Paying online is both convenient and safe when you know how

Online fraud is a numbers game. Cybercriminals don’t need to use sophisticated methods because, if they target enough people, they’ll inevitably hit those who don’t have sufficient knowledge to protect themselves. 

This festive season, let’s turn fear into readiness and uncertainty into confidence as you shop online for Christmas gifts. Let Readyr be your trusted companion on this journey.

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