Online security

1 February 2021

7 practical tips for shopping online safely

Online shopping is more popular than ever. These tips will help ensure that you are shopping online safely.

From clothing to groceries and electronics: these days you can order just about anything on the internet. But what about your safety? While most web shops let you shop online safely, there are some untrustworthy websites as well. And when you’ve never heard of a web shop before, it can be difficult to know the difference. Keep these seven tips in mind, and you’ll be able to shop online in safety and security:

1. Check the website’s contact details

Look for essential details like a contact email address, phone number, and the company’s registered address. This should give you a first clue as to how safe the online shop is. For example, be wary when a seemingly Belgian website is registered at a foreign address. When in doubt, have a look at the address on Google Maps. The BeCommerce website – the Belgian association of companies who offer products and services online – also gives you an overview of Belgian websites where you can shop online safely.

2. See what others have to say

Check whether the web shop is reputed for good service. This will tell you more about both the product quality and the delivery experience. First, read the comments and scores left on the company’s website by previous customers. Then browse other online forums and independent review websites like Trustpilot. Do keep in mind that some companies may add fake positive reviews to make it seem like you can shop online safely with them – so be critical of what you read.

3. Check if your transaction is secure

Trustworthy web shops, both in Belgium and abroad, will provide a secure connection between your device and the company’s website. The technical term for this safe connection is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This means that your data is being split into chunks, making it unreadable to third parties.

Your browser of choice should have an easy way of checking whether the page you are visiting is secure:

  • The URL should be preceded by a little lock icon;
  • The URL should start with ‘https’ (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’).
Tip: certain you’re on a secure page? Make online shopping even safer by using the ING Banking app to pay. The app requires a 5-digit code, a fingerprint or facial recognition for every transaction.

4. Read the terms and conditions of sale

If you want to shop online safely, it’s important to know in advance how the transaction and delivery will be handled, whether returns are allowed and if you can get a refund. For some web shops, these conditions can be different from those you may be used to in a physical shop – especially if you are not shopping on a Belgian website. Make sure to check whether:

  • there’s an additional delivery (and return) cost for your order;
  • you can track your order from payment to delivery
  • the billed amount will be taken from your account before or after delivery;
  • your online purchase comes with a warranty;
  • you can return your purchase if it is faulty or does not meet your expectations.

You can usually find the answers to these questions on a separate web page, for example in the FAQ section.

5. Check whether you are insured

An insurance offers extra peace of mind if it turns out that, despite all your precautions, you did not shop online safely. Most credit cards include an online purchase protection insurance. This insurance will kick into action if the article you ordered is not delivered, but it also covers damaged goods or items that do not correspond to their online description.

Tip: the ING Banking app makes it easy to increase your debit and credit card limits with your smartphone – and you can check exactly how much money is left in your account while shopping online safely.

6. Check how the web shop protects your privacy

It’s important to be aware of how a website uses your data, as some companies will sell your contact details to third parties. On most websites you will find the privacy policy on a separate page, linked in the homepage footer. For extra peace of mind, check whether the web shop carries a quality certification from BeCommerce.

7. Be wary of emails asking for your bank details

This could be targeted phishing. The sender will ask you to email them personal details like your password, pin code and bank or ID card number – only to use your bank account to make unauthorised payments. If you get sent an email while shopping online asking you to use the included link to complete the transaction, do not click the link. Secure web shops will handle your payment on their website, within their secure online environment. As an exception, you might be offered the option to pay via bank transfer. The only emails you should get are a confirmation of purchase, and a link that allows you to track your delivery.

Shop online safely and securely with the ING Banking app.

A five-digit code, a fingerprint or facial recognition: you get to choose. The ING Banking app also allows you to pay contactless securely in shops, and to manage all your banking – all without need for a card reader.

Download the ING Banking app for Android or iPhone now.