The information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be read in the context of the date it was published. Views in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Scottish Friendly.

With a click of the mouse, you can buy nearly any product online – from ordering your weekly groceries to making savings and investments. The world of e-commerce, enables you to shop at thousands of websites and pay for purchases from the comfort of your own home.  But just as you should take measures to protect yourself in stores outside the home (such as protecting your PIN number when paying for purchases) you also need to take sensible precautions when shopping, saving and investing online.

We all know that when shopping, or making savings and investments online, you should only use secure websites. ‘Common sense’, I hear you say! But how can you tell if a website is truly secure? Well, the good news is that it’s really quite simple.

Secure websites use encryption technology. This technology enables the transfer of information from your computer to an online retailer’s computer in secret code. Encryption scrambles the information you send (such as your card details) so it is securely transmitted over the Internet. The only people who can unscramble the code to read the information supplied are those with legitimate access privileges, in other words the retailer with whom you are interacting.

So, that’s the technical bit – sounds good doesn’t it! But how can you tell that an online retailer is using these security measures? Well, there are two things you should look out for as good indicators that the site you are dealing with is secure:

  • First, if you look at the top of your screen where the Web site address is displayed, you should see https://. The “s” that is displayed after “http” indicates that Web site is secure. In many cases, you do not see the “s” until you actually move to the application page on a Web site.
  • Another way to determine if a Web site is secure is to look for a closed padlock, usually displayed at the bottom right hand corner of your screen (depending on your browser, e.g. Internet Explorer). By double-clicking the padlock, you’ll see the security certificate for that website. If that lock is open, you should assume it is not a secure site.

Padlock icon displayed in Google Chrome browser.Padlock icon displayed in Safari browser.
As well as checking out the above, there are other sensible things you can do to stay safe when making your shopping or savings and investment purchases online. Most reputable websites will have a privacy policy – check it out before you buy. Then enjoy the benefits of online shopping, knowing that you’re doing it both responsibly and with confidence that you’re data is secure.  And don’t let yourself down at the last hurdle! When you’re finished, if you’re using a public computer or terminal, always log out and close the browser for added peace of mind. Happy shopping!

No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.