The Parents’ Guide to Online Shopping Safety
November 20, 2018
Shopping online makes life a lot easier, but there are some precautions to take when your children have control of the mouse. Luckily, with some expert tips in mind, you can keep your child safe and your financial information secure. You can also ensure that the purchases your family makes are of the highest quality.
Our guide offers you everything you need to know about keeping your children safe while shopping online. Above all, we want you and your family to have a safe and enjoyable online experience, where you can find the best prices on the best products. Read on to learn about online shopping safety, or use the jump links below to skip ahead to a certain section.
Chapter 1: Getting Your Child Set Up Online
Before you give your kids permission to make purchases online, ensure the proper safeguards are in place. By preparing a few aspects, both you and your kids will have peace of mind when making online purchases. These initial steps can be completed on any device, no matter your operating system.
Set parental controls where possible
Many computer operating systems allow you to place parental controls on internet and program usage. Specifically, you can adjust your settings to block certain sites or set internet time limits.
For example, you can ensure your kids can’t access sites that you don’t want them to access, which can protect them from seeing inappropriate content and making unapproved purchases. You can even access activity reports that show what websites your children have visited.
Usually, parental controls can be found in your operating system’s settings. Following the instructions, adjust the settings to the amount of oversight you want; remember they can always be changed.
Teach computer and online shopping basics
While online shopping might seem straightforward, it’s important to explain the basics to your child. They should know how to navigate the internet, research information and type with the keyboard.
If you’re unsure of the level of your child’s computer skills, practice navigating a few shopping websites ahead of time. You can even do a mock purchase as a practice to show them the general steps. We cover more details about online shopping safety and payment methods later in this guide. Most importantly, you want to feel comfortable with what your child is doing when you’re not in the room.
Install an antivirus software
Plenty of antivirus software options are available for Windows, macOS and Android computers. Choose one that includes automatic updates, a high malware-detection rate and web and email protection. Consider highly rated programs such as Kaspersky, Norton and Avast to protect your computer and secure your system against malware and hackers.
Keep your software up-to-date
You’ll want to continually update your software programs and applications to maintain their stability, performance and security. Many programs offer an automatic update option in their settings or you can manually update. Be sure to update your programs every three to six months to ensure you have the latest, safest versions.
Create strong passwords
Hackers uncover personal and financial information in a variety of ways, but the easiest route is through a weak password. They can steal anything from your home address to your credit card and bank login details. That’s why it’s essential to set strong passwords for each website.
You should vary your passwords so that no two are the same. That way, if a hacker gets ahold of one of your passwords, they won’t be able to break into your other accounts.
Consider installing a program like LastPass or 1Password. These programs provide a secure vault for your passwords so you don’t have to remember them or write them down. Password vaults can also generate strong passwords and record them for you — providing you with random, well-built passwords for various websites and accounts.
Maintaining a high level of security with your passwords helps prevent identity theft and other breaches of information.
Establish passwords that your children can’t access
Want to prevent your kids from buying apps or logging on to your computer without permission? Assign unique passwords for particular shopping websites or your computer. Change the passwords often, such as weekly, to ensure your kids aren’t accessing things when they shouldn’t.
Build individual profiles on the computer
Creating separate profiles on your computer allows you to customize your desktop, set your application preferences and organize your personal files. Individual profiles also enable you to establish certain security and internet parameters. By building profiles for your kids, you can more closely monitor their computer usage and keep your own information private.
Customize internet access
Personalize your internet access for an enhanced user experience. Change the login and password for your WiFi network, name your devices, and establish your preferences. You can even pause WiFi access on a certain device or set a bedtime where the WiFi is no longer available until the morning.
Chapter 2: Keeping Your Child Safe When Shopping Online
When your children are selecting items and companies to buy from, make sure they know what to look for. For instance, the company’s website should be secure and the product should carry positive reviews. By taking the time to educate your kids on key aspects of online shopping, they’ll make safer, sounder decisions.
Make sure the site is secure (HTTPS)
When exchanging information on the internet, you want to be sure that you’re on a secure network. A simple way to determine if a website is secure is by looking at the URL or web address. If the website begins with HTTPS (not HTTP), the site is secure.
When inputting information, like your credit card or address, have your children verify first that the website uses HTTPS. HTTPS also tells you the website is certified — meaning it has an SSL certificate. In other words, information sent between you and the website is encrypted, private and secure.
Check the seller’s reputation and product reviews
Before making any online purchase, it’s best to thoroughly read positive and negative reviews. Your kids should look at the pros and cons listed about the product and the seller.
What is the return policy? How well does the item match the description provided? Were most people pleased with the quality? By double checking these aspects prior to purchase, you avoid buying something that’s of low-quality or with a company that’s not reputable.
Large online retailers usually provide plenty of reviews, but even smaller companies should give you a way to verify that a purchase is sound.
Avoid shopping on public WiFi networks
Because your child will be inputting personal and financial information when they make a purchase, it’s best to shop online at home with your own secured network. The chances of someone accessing your information at home are lower, which limits the opportunities for hackers to steal your credit card or password information.
Feel free to browse products and read reviews on public WiFi, but encourage your kids to make all purchases from your secure home computer. If they are shopping on mobile, they should only make purchases when connected to a secure WiFi network. In addition, purchases on a mobile phone should be made on a retailer’s app instead of on their mobile website.
Pay attention to privacy policies
Know how to identify online shopping scams
When evaluating shopping websites, your child should be on the lookout for fake websites and online scams, such online vendors pretending to be legitimate retailers. There are a few key signs that help identify which ones are fake.
If the website is poorly designed, written in improper English, has bad reviews or is offering an usually steep discount, it’s likely the website is a scam. Websites offering deals that are “now or never” or claiming free products are also likely to be fraudulent. If your child suspects a scam, they should come to you prior to making any purchases or inputting any personal information.
Chapter 3: Keeping Your Child Safe When Paying Online
Entering personal information online, whether it’s a credit card or your social security number, is serious business. Ensure your children are keeping your information as secure as possible, especially any financial details. Unfortunately, there are hackers who specifically target personal and financial data, so precautions must be taken.
Review the following guidelines with your children and teenagers before they make purchases online. These measures help to keep everyone safe.
Don’t use a debit card
While a debit card might be a simple and inexpensive way to make purchases online, it comes with an increased risk of fraud and theft. After all, your debit card is directly linked to your bank account.
If someone were to get ahold of your debit card information, they would have access to your bank account, which is far riskier than a hacker getting their hands on a credit card with fraud protection. Stolen funds come directly out of a debit account. With a credit card, however, there’s a delay of when the money leaves your checking or savings.
Because of the fraud protection offered by credit cards and the time gap before the money is taken out of your account, credit cards are the safest payment method for children shopping online.
Opt for a secure payment method
Reduce your chances of stolen information and theft by choosing a safe payment method for every transaction. The safest choices are either a credit card or a third-party payment system like PayPal or Google Pay.
Most credit card companies offer fraud protection, which allows you to reverse any wrongful charges. Third-party options, on the other hand, provide an extra level of security by storing your bank or credit card information in a central location instead of on a number of websites.
When your children are shopping online, they should be clear on their payment method. Inform them of which credit card or third-party payment system you authorize them to use online.
Never store payment information
After making a purchase, websites often ask if you want to store your credit card or payment information on their server. The most secure practice is to not store your payment details on external websites. By limiting the number of locations where your financial details are stored, you’re reducing the opportunities for hackers to steal your information.
Double check totals
It’s easy for a child or teenager to be excited or distracted while making a purchase online. Talk with them about verifying totals before making a final purchase. They should review the taxes, shipping costs and any additional handling fees.
If the amount seems unusually high or inaccurate, they should pause and ask you or another guardian before submitting the purchase. Sometimes websites contain errors or are attempting to charge you inflated prices.
Buy from companies that require a CVC or CVV code during checkout
A credit card security code — usually listed on the back of your card — is especially important for purchases made when the card isn’t present (like in the case of online shopping). This three or four digit code is an additional bit of information that helps reduce credit card fraud. All valid websites will ask for this code at checkout. If a website doesn’t ask for a CVV or CVC code, your child should not make the purchase.
Log out and close the browser when finished
No matter if your child is utilizing a bank account or shopping website, they should always log off at the end of their transaction. They should also close the browser that they’re using, such as Microsoft Explorer or Google Chrome. By logging off and closing the browser, it’s more difficult for hackers to steal information.
Chapter 4: Online Shopping Rules for Children and Teenagers
To keep your children safe while shopping online, ensure you communicate and enforce the following rules.
1. Don’t share passwords with anyone but a parent or guardian.
2. Shop at home to ensure you’re on a secure, private WiFi network.
3. See a parent or guardian immediately if you receive messages or come across websites that make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
4. Don’t buy any items without permission.
5. Evaluate the seller and product information before making a purchase by carefully reading the reviews.
6. Verify that the shopping website is on a secure network by checking to see if it has an HTTPS web address.
7. Utilize a secure payment method authorized by a parent or guardian, such as a credit card or third-party payment system.
8. Double check the final details and payment amount before making a purchase and only buy from companies that ask for a CVV or CVC code at checkout.
9. If a website asks if you want to store your payment information, always select “no.”
10. Log out of any accounts and close your browser after making a purchase.
Chapter 5: Online Shopping Safety Action Steps for Adults
Ensure you and your children are as safe as possible while shopping online by implementing the following action steps.
1. Set parental controls on all of your devices to limit your children’s access to inappropriate content and websites.
2. Install an antivirus program and ensure all of your software programs remain up-to-date.
3. Customize internet access or set up different profiles on the computer for an added layer of security.
4. Create strong, unique passwords for each website and application.
5. Inform your children of the basic security measures of online shopping. Remind them to be careful when using any financial information online.
6. Teach your children how to read through reviews to determine the reputation of a product and seller.
7. Provide your children with a secure payment method for online shopping, such as a credit card with fraud protection or a third-party payment system.
8. Place your home computers in a spot where you can easily monitor your children’s activity.
9. Review your credit card statements weekly or monthly to ensure your child isn’t making purchases you’re unaware of.
10. Set clear guidelines about the types of online purchases you approve of.
Make online shopping a stress-free experience for the whole family. The recommended guidelines above will help ensure you and your children are as safe as possible. By implementing important security measures, you limit your risk of fraud and theft. In addition, talking with your children about how to make informed shopping decisions will ensure they make smart choices whether they’re buying clothes, books, electronics or anything in between.