In the light of Covid-19 outbreak, and lockdowns, people’s lifestyle and shopping behaviour have changed dramatically. And while the increased availability of online shopping is convenient, it makes it more lucrative for scammers to trick buyers into paying for goods they won’t receive or obtain their personal information for financial gain.

Visa, financial institutions, and payment providers work hard to keep consumers’ payments safe – using multiple layers of security to prevent fraud, protect data, and help them get their money back if someone uses their card without permission. Yet, fraudsters are counting on consumers to be distracted and let their guard down, so they can trick them into handing over their personal or financial information.

Here are five simple steps every consumer can follow to stay safe when shopping online:

Prior to making a purchase, check the merchant’s web page, privacy policies, as well as any delivery and return policies, to make sure that the items can be returned if they are received in unsatisfactory condition or not delivered.

1. Pay securely online

When paying online, use Visa Checkout that offers an extra layer of protection and always check the URL to ensure it begins with “https://”. The “s” at the end confirms a secure connection. You might find you are asked to provide a unique code (sent to your mobile or email), fingerprint, or voice recognition when making a payment. This could be because something is unusual about your purchase, and your bank just wants to be certain you are the person using your card.

Adoma Peprah is Country Manager for Visa Ghana

2. Pay securely in-app

Update your passwords with a strong password unique to each account or better yet, switch to fingerprint or facial recognition for account login and/or payments if it’s an option.

3. Beware of phishing scams

Be careful of unsolicited and suspicious emails, SMS or phone calls. They may try to steal personal information like your account number, username and password. If in doubt, do not click on any links or download files.

4. Update system and application software

Install the latest software before shopping on your computer, tablet or phone. Technology companies work hard to keep you safe – updating your software helps them patch and protect you from vulnerabilities. Remember, if you pay with your Visa, you can also have help getting your money back if something you’ve ordered doesn’t arrive, or isn’t what you expected. Speak to your bank for more information.

5. Keep a record of your transactions and review your account statements regularly

You can sign up for your bank’s alerts service to receive notices for each payment you make and quickly notify your issuer if there’s a transaction you did not authorize or do not recognize.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical for all of us to take part in protecting payment security and stay ahead of fraud. While we are leveraging technological advancements to prevent, detect and decrease threats, we also need to drive further awareness and sustained consumer education. Consumers are the first line of defence, and we believe these security tips and practices can help them keep their payments and personal data safe.