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Smart Spending: How to Shop Online Safely in Your Twenties

Are you in your 20s? Do you buy things online? If so, you’re probably familiar with navigating the Internet. In fact, a vast majority of people in their twenties are intimately familiar with technology and working around computers. 

The reason is obvious: this demographic has grown up with the Internet. 

Not only do people in their twenties know how to use a computer, they’re likely to be well aware of the endless online shopping opportunities around them. Online retail behemoths like Amazon and eBay are household names for this generation.

That said, people in their twenties aren’t completely infallible to the scams and fraud attempts lying in wait online. This is especially true with the proliferation of crypto-based and social media scam attempts, along with somewhat sketchy retailers like Temu, Shein, and TikTok Shop, for example.

If you’re in your twenties, you’re likely still in the budding stages of growing your wealth. Given that fact, you must protect your finances from malicious actors—and that starts by shopping mindfully.

Before you buy a product online, here are some tips to help you safely shop online.

how to protect yourself while shopping online

How to Shop Online Safely in Your Twenties

1. Use Trusted Websites

Even if most twenty-somethings visit less than a dozen websites in their daily lives, you’ll probably visit a new site a couple of times a week. And with over a billion websites in the world today, there’s a high chance that you may come across a shady website at some point.

There’s no central authority that polices each website. This means that among the staggering amount of websites today, quite a number of them are built for the express purpose of taking advantage of someone’s naivete.

Given that reality, it’s important to stick to trusted websites to ensure that you’re transacting safely online. Websites that have an “HTTPS” and a secure padlock in the web browser are good indicators that you’re dealing with a legitimate website.

Besides that, you should also review the website name itself. 

Some phishing websites purposely use identical symbols like “l” and “I” to disguise their true intentions of phishing people. They may even copy the exact layout of the original website. Other URLs could have a legitimate-seeming website but are not actually the real thing. This is especially common among websites featuring a household brand.

Having said all that, it’s key to be proactive with the website you choose to shop in. Review the website bar and ensure that it aligns with the real brand, or that it’s secure. This can prevent you from falling for tricks and being a victim of an internet scam attempt. 

This guide can give you more tips on being safe when shopping around the internet.

how to protect yourself while shopping online

2. Create a Strong and Unique Password Per Website

You don’t always have to create an account for every shopping website you go to—doing so can bring a lot of unnecessary clutter to your email.

However, for websites you plan on visiting frequently, then you can consider creating an account. When you do, be sure to use a strong and unique password that consists of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

A lot of short, common passwords are easily decipherable with modern-day cyber-hacking technology. As such, it’s vital to have a strong password so that your account won’t become compromised and your financial information won’t end up in the hands of malicious actors.

On top of that, it’s also ideal to have different passwords for each website. Definitely refrain from sharing the same password throughout your social media accounts, bank accounts, and shopping accounts as this is a surefire way of getting in a whole lot of trouble once one account ends up in a data breach.

You can use a password-managing app or software to keep track of your list of passwords.

3. Use Antivirus Software

With how abundant scam and phishing attempts are in the world today, there’s an entire industry built around protecting consumers from falling for these malicious pages.

This industry, called cybersecurity, provides people with antivirus software that helps detect and remove software, spyware, ransomware, and other files that can infect your computer and compromise your information.

Think of antivirus software as a second line of defense when browsing the web, next to your own common sense. If you end up clicking something you shouldn’t, this antivirus software can defend you against the threat by identifying and quarantining this bad file from your device. 

This protects your computer from bad actors, helping you keep sensitive data away from prying hands. That said, they’re not always going to catch updated viruses, so seek to keep your antivirus software updated and practice safe browsing tips at all times.

4. Use Secure Payment Methods

While you can get away with buying second hand items through bank transfer or cryptocurrency, they’re not always the safest means of payment. In fact, such methods are often a hotbed for scam attempts.

As such, when buying things online, use payment methods from reputable third-party payment processors like Wise or through your credit card. These methods are generally reputable and have safeguards in place to protect buyers from fraudulent transactions.

By choosing secure payment options, you can shop with confidence knowing that your transactions are protected against unauthorized actors. 

Furthermore, it’s also important to look at your credit card reports and transaction history often to ensure that no suspicious purchases have been made.

how to protect yourself while shopping online

5. Don’t Fall For Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers

Found a designer product selling for less than 50% of its actual price while scrolling through social media? Or a vehicle that’s 80% of its market value?

Before you feel that you just spotted a money-saving hack and hit up the seller, be cautious: these offers can be attempts to fool impulsive buyers into spending for things that aren’t what they seem.

In many cases, these items are wrongfully advertised and are really just knock-offs of the real thing. Or they could be falsely advertised and have major damage that the seller just omitted to get an offer. In other words, these tempting offers could just be bait-and-switch scams.

Furthermore, there are times wherein legitimate companies show a low price for a rental car or a hotel but start to jack up the price due to mandatory add-ons—leading to a total price that’s much higher than advertised. 

So despite how nice an offer is, it’s important to do your due diligence. It’s often much better to buy an item from a legitimate store. This not only gives you a high-quality and genuine item, but it also gives you peace of mind knowing that the product or service you’re getting is legitimate.

6. Review Website and Seller Reputation

When shopping online, it’s important to look at the reputation of the seller or website before engaging with them. If you’re dealing with a new website, search its reputation through Google search or review websites like Yelp.

If the reviews lean positive, then it’s a good indicator that you can deal with that website with peace of mind.

If you’re dealing with a seller in an eCommerce platform like Amazon, look at their review ratings. This can generally indicate their ability to provide the goods at the quality that’s expected of them.

Besides looking at the 5-star reviews, look at the critical ones as well. This can help you understand the full picture of their services, which can help you avoid potential scams and ensure you’re dealing with only reputable businesses.

how to protect yourself while shopping online

Summarizing What We Talked About

Navigating the vast landscape of online shopping can be both exciting and daunting, especially for those in their twenties who are just beginning to establish their financial independence. However, by implementing smart spending habits and following the safety tips outlined in this guide, you can shop online with confidence and peace of mind.

Remember to prioritize security by using reputable websites, safeguarding your personal information, and staying vigilant against potential scams. Additionally, leverage technology tools such as secure payment methods and antivirus software to further protect yourself while browsing and making purchases online.

Ultimately, shopping online in your twenties offers a world of convenience and opportunity, but it’s essential to approach it with caution and responsibility. By staying informed, practicing smart spending habits, and prioritizing your online safety, you can make the most of your shopping experiences while safeguarding your financial well-being for the future. Happy shopping!