Use a payment method with buyer protection
Although debit cards ensure you are using your own cash to make a purchase, many do not offer the same robust buyer protection as other options if something does go wrong. A credit card or a virtual wallet option give you more flexibility when it comes to requesting a chargeback.
A chargeback is when a transaction is reversed and a refund is given to you as the buyer. It can either be initiated by your bank on detection of fraudulent activity, or you can initiate a chargeback depending on the situation. Check with your bank for details.
Another option that you might consider using to add another layer of protection is a single-use credit card number. These are tied to your regular credit card but provide a unique number to be used for one transaction so your actual credit card number is not compromised. This is particularly useful if there is a breach somewhere along the chain that might reveal your credit card details. Again, check with your bank to see if this is an option.
Although it makes it very convenient to make repeat purchases, it is worth unchecking any option that lets the retailer store your credit card details on file. This way if your account is compromised, at least your financial details are not revealed.
Shopping on your smartphone or tablet
Apart from the tips outlined above, there are a few things to be aware of when shopping on a mobile device. Set a password, pattern or PIN lock on your smartphone, and adjust the settings so the screen locks automatically after a set period of inactivity.
The vendor's own app might be a convenient way to make a purchase, but find out if it is using a secure connection to transmit your personal information and transaction details. If unsure, it's best to use the website through a mobile browser.
Turn off Bluetooth if you are not using it, and check what permissions applications are asking for before you install them. Also, jailbreaking or rooting your device may open up more features but it can leave it more open to threats.
Finally, if you lose your device and it has personal information on it such as credit card info, or you left it logged in to an account which has access to your credit card or bank details, make sure you can remotely wipe and disable your device. For iOS, enable Find My iPhone from the settings. Android users can use Google's Android Device Manager to remotely lock and erase the handset or tablet. Windows Phone owners can use the Find My Phone feature on windowsphone.com to erase the handset if lost.
Calculate the total cost
Take into account shipping, sales tax and any other taxes or charges that might apply, especially when importing goods from overseas. Product doesn't suit or you need to get a refund? Check the retailer's policies before making the purchase to work out if you need to cover return costs and any extra fees or charges you need to pay.
It's also worth shopping around to find the best deal on the same product. Don't just assume your favourite online retailer is always going to have the best price, as you might be able to find a better deal elsewhere.
Something went wrong?
Your first port of call if something goes wrong with an online transaction should be the retailer. If you need to report identity theft or fraud, each country has a local service where you can report the issue.
If something looks suspicious, it probably is. Regularly keep an eye out for online scams on the relevant sites. Find information on USA.gov, Scam Watch in Australia and Action Fraud in the UK.