Shoes, clothes, computers, games and more will be flying off the shelves in the coming weeks as the Christmas rush intensifies.

This means that the criminally minded among us will be waiting for a slip up or lapse in judgement to pounce and grab your hard earned Randelas.

While most safety precautions should be common knowledge it is easy to get swept up in the furore of Christmas and lose focus so consider this a bit of a refresher course in shopping safely for the next few weeks.

Before you log on

While it may be tempting to rush off to exploit daily savings and special online offers we suggest making sure that your anti-virus and anti-malware software is up to date.

For those that have been browsing unprotected up until now we suggest buying a license for Kaspersky or Norton anti-virus software.

Image CC by 2.0 Yuri Samoilov
Image CC by 2.0 Yuri Samoilov

Once you’ve installed and updated the software give your PC a scan and make sure nothing malicious is already on your PC waiting to grab your passwords, credit card number and more.

To prevent any additional malicious software from worming its way onto your PC make sure you only visited trusted sites.

Look for the lock

Before you start entering your credit card information or anything you would prefer to be private online, check that the connection between you and the site is secure.

The quick and dirty method is to look for a lock or the HTTP part of a URL with an additional “S at the end. This represents that the website you are visiting has Secure Socket Layer protection which means that the connection between you and the server is safe from prying eyes.

Image CC by 2.0 Danny Oosterveer
Image CC by 2.0 Danny Oosterveer

For Chrome, Opera, Edge and Firefox browsers this lock should be next to the URL bar. For those using Internet Explorer it can be found at the bottom of the browser window.

You should also beware of  visiting websites with unrecognised and unsigned security certificates, thankfully your browser should warn you when these are encountered.

Good deals are similar deals

As much as you would like to believe it to be true, a brand new 128GB iPhone 6S Plus is not going to cost you R1000.

Whether you’re shopping online or away from your keyboard its best to get acquainted with the deals that will be cropping around for the next few weeks. Knowing what the going rate is for the gifts you have your eye will help determine which deals are legitimate and which could be a scam.

Image CC by 2.0 Kevin Dooley
Image CC by 2.0 Kevin Dooley

Using services such as Price Check can give you an idea of what the average price of an item is and even which retailer, or e-tailer has the cheapest price. Failing that you could always walk from store to store.

Cash-less and card-less solutions

Remove the threat of having your pocket picked and losing your wallet completely by using a service such as Snapscan or Masterpass. You simply load up your credit card details into the secure app. When checking out scan the barcode at the till and the transfer of funds happens between the banks rather than you.

This means you can shop without a wallet. Image CC by 2.0 401(K) 2012
This means you can shop without a wallet. Image CC by 2.0 401(K) 2012

This even works online at sites such as Takealot and Superbalist so no more having to type out credit card numbers and trying to remember where exactly you’ll find the CVV number.

For those that still insist on using cash make sure you read our guide on how to stay safe at an ATM.

Trust is absolute

Unless you are 100% certain of who is on a network, wireless or wired do not enter your financial information online. While browsing gifts and buying them online while enjoying a latte and using the free Wifi at your local coffee shop seems like a good idea we would advise against it.

Image CC by 2.0 Robbert van der Steeg
Image CC by 2.0 Robbert van der Steeg

First, there’s the risk of broadcasting information to anyone you’d prefer didn’t see it. Second, entering your credit card details on an illuminated display for all the world to see is a risk you shouldn’t be taking.

Do you have any shopping tips you’ve been using that make you feel safer? Why not share them with us and the rest of the htxt.africa readers over on Facebook and Twitter.

[Main Image CC by 2.0 – Jessica Lucia]