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How to safely shop and pay online?

5 Sept 2022 12:35|Conotoxia.com

Fraudsters take the trouble to set up sites posing as online shops to defraud us of our money or personal data. Here we advise on ways to avoid falling for this and how to differentiate a criminal from a legitimate seller.

How to safely shop and pay online

Online trading is expanding at a breakneck pace. The coronavirus pandemic has only intensified this trend. Suffice it to say that, according to a survey conducted by Kantar for the National Clearing House and the Polish Bank Association, nearly 90% of Polish consumers surveyed already decided to shop online by the end of last year, whereas two years earlier, barely 45% of them had done so.

Greater choice of goods, saving time and money, almost unlimited access to the offering of sellers from different countries and continents - such advantages may make e-commerce increasingly important. PwC's analysis "Prospects for the development of the e-commerce market in Poland 2021-2026" indicates that in 2026 the Polish e-commerce market will reach a value of 162 billion PLN. It is expected to gain around 12% each year and, at the same time, reduce the turnover of stationary shops, to which customers have to go, respecting opening hours and having a rather limited range of products.

A couple of safety rules

Criminals know they can lure people inexperienced in online sales into a trap. However, anyone can become a victim of fraud, regardless of their experience with online transactions. What can be done to avoid this?

The first step is to stay cautious and cool-headed, which applies to the first purchases in a shop or on an auction platform. Although in e-commerce, we can count on lower prices than in stationary shops, extraordinary bargains do not usually happen. Therefore, prices that are clearly lower than those of the competitors, all goods at a discount, and the availability of products that cannot be found elsewhere - are signals that encourage a thorough review of the website. How to do this? You can, for example, look for seller reviews in an online search engine, but do not rely only on one of them or those posted in just one discussion forum or social media posts.

Verify the seller before you make a payment and disclose your personal data

The website content of the shop can also reveal a lot to us, such as whether it contains entries from customers who have previously decided to make a purchase. Of course, a new player on the e-commerce market may not have an extensive feedback tab, and we cannot treat its offer with suspicion based on this alone.

The shop's website should contain, among other things, regulations, privacy policy, as well as returns and complaints policy for goods, and data on the company conducting business activity, i.e. name, Tax Identification Number, registered office address, and email address. Such information can already be verified in the different official registers.

However, online criminals can impersonate companies that actually exist. For this reason, it is best to make your first purchase from a shop you do not yet trust without revealing your sensitive personal data by choosing to pay on delivery. You can also precede the transaction by trying to contact them by email or telephone and check whether a given website is listed as a fake shop on the internet. The trouble is that fraudsters also look at such lists. As a result, their fake sites often remain online for just a few dozen hours and then... disappear along with the customers' money.

Hint in the address

A closed padlock appearing in the browser at the beginning of a shop's web address should indicate that it has the appropriate security certificate. It is also worth noting what letters begin the address. For example, "https://" indicates an encrypted connection in which our data should not fall into the wrong hands. On the other hand, the beginning "http://" may mean that part of the retailer's website resources does not have such security.

Payment methods

Payment methods

Online shops and auction platforms, caring for their credibility in the eyes of customers, should offer not only a wide range of goods but also payment methods. This applies to domestic and also foreign sites. However, the growing interest in online shops from other countries is associated with currency conversion, when the owner of an e-commerce website sells goods in a different currency than the one used by the potential buyer daily. In such situations, it is best to provide a payment gateway with a favourable conversion rate and practically automatic payment processing. One example is the Conotoxia Pay system. It allows online shoppers to pay using, among others, BLIK, Visa and Mastercard, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, fast online bank transfers, but also many foreign methods such as Trustly, Skrill, iDEAL, Vipps or Rapid Transfer.

Right to return

Goods purchased from online shops, which does not apply to fresh food products, can be returned without stating reasons within 14 days of receipt. Often, however, shops voluntarily set a much longer time limit for a possible withdrawal from the transaction.

To make the whole procedure easier, retailers include a return declaration with the delivery or, if they do not do so, make such a form available on their website. After completing the formalities, the customer gets back the payment for the goods. Unfortunately, in many cases, they lose the money they spend on sending back the parcel unless the shop provides for a free return.

If, while shopping online, it happens that the delivered product does not meet the criteria described and shown in the offer (e.g. with respect to the model, size, colour, technical parameters, functions or execution quality), the buyer may request an exchange of goods or a refund. In such a case, the delivery costs of the proper shipment shall fall on the e-shop.

The right of refund shall apply to any shop customer within the European Union if the waiting period for the purchase exceeds 30 days from the date of order. This rule may be waived if both parties to the transaction voluntarily agree (e.g. in email correspondence) to a longer processing time.

Account registration and login - benefits and risks

Online shops and transaction platforms usually offer two ways of purchasing: with or without registering an account and logging in (also via Facebook). However, sometimes, buyers are forced to use the former method, whether they want to or not. Otherwise, they will not take advantage of the commercial offer.

From the customer's point of view, registering an account appears to be beneficial if the customer intends to use the services of a given seller more frequently. They can then take advantage of benefits, loyalty programmes and save time filling in buyer data.

Signing up for an account and logging in can raise concerns about disclosing personal data. After all, the buyer does not know what the owner of the shop is doing with them and whether they are able to protect against a hacker attack.

The Data Protection Act of August 1997 and, later on, the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force on 25 May 2018, oblige, among other things, online retailers to comply with rules regarding the collection and adequate security of customer data. They also impose legal liability on the controller of this data, which the shop becomes. The GDPR obliges, among other things, to provide information on the precise range of data collected, the manner in which it is stored, or the measures to be taken if the system is hacked and the data stolen. According to the GDPR, the customer has the right to request the erasure of their data from the merchant's database at any time.

5 Sept 2022 12:35|Conotoxia.com

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