From teens to senior citizens, today, everyone shops online. It's convenient, quick, and hassle-free. However, not many are aware of how to safely transact online while keeping their personal financial data secure. According to a survey by Experian, nearly 1 in 4 digital consumers in India have been victims of online fraud.

Online customers often share their financial data, like credit/debit card numbers on various shopping sites. While this makes checkout convenient and hassle-free, it also poses a severe security threat. Online consumers are exposed to multiple frauds and risks like – identity theft, loss of money, hacker attacks, phishing scams that steal financial data, and more.

Safety while transacting online is the need of the hour. In this article, we explain the golden rules that you must follow to ensure the safety of your financial data on various platforms. 

Rules to Keep your Financial Data Safe, while Transacting Online

Rule No#1: Look for the ‘https’ protocol 

Irrespective of the site/digital platform you use, ensure that the site’s name displayed on your web browser begins with ‘https.’ The ‘https’ is an internet protocol that uses end-to-end encryption. The term ‘s’ here stands for secure. By using only websites and portals that begin with https, you can prevent third-parties from gaining access to your financial data. 

Rule No#2: Use Only Reputed Shopping Sites/Web Portals 

It may be tempting to pick up an item from a sketchy eCommerce site, just to save a few tens of rupees. However, you may end up losing way more than what you save.

Make sure that the eCommerce portals you use are well-known and come with a trustworthy reputation. Check if the portal has adequate data security provisions to ensure the safety of your financial data.

If you're shopping from a lesser-known brand/online-store/app, make sure to check the reviews and popularity of the portal, to help you decide whether you should buy or not.

Finally, spend a few minutes going through the privacy and data usage policies of the portal/app. This helps you understand how your personal data will be stored, shared, and used by that platform.

Rule No#3: Never enter your Financial Details using a Public Wi-Fi Network 

You are more likely to be a victim of online fraud if you use unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Free public Wi-Fi networks are easy for hackers to hack into and steal your information – including credit card numbers, internet login details, etc.

Always use your secure home Wi-Fi network or mobile data while entering bank/card details.

This brings us to the next point. 

Rule No#4: Secure your Wi-Fi Network 

Use all security tools like passwords, firewalls, encryption to reduce the chances of malicious hackers from attacking your home/office Wi-Fi network. Don’t share your Wi-Fi password with everyone. If you share it with an acquaintance, make sure to change it after. 

Install the latest anti-virus software on all your devices to keep you safe from malware that spies and steals your personal data. Ensure that you update the OS to protect you from digital risks.

Rule No#5: Be Careful of e-Wallets and other Apps that you install 

E-wallets are growing in popularity as a convenient mode of payment. However, before you download one, make sure that you choose an app with robust security features. Most e-wallets store the card/internet banking details of the user. If the app gets compromised, so does your date.

Check the reviews and ratings of the app before installing it on your smartphone. Always download apps only from trusted sources. If you’re downloading an app to your smartphone, make sure that you use only the iTunes App Store (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android). Do not download apps from elsewhere, as they may steal your financial data in the background.

Also, passwords protect your e-wallets so that others cannot access them, even if you were to lose your smartphone. 

Rule No#6: Practise Safe Card Usage 

Here are some of the precautionary measures that you should keep in mind while using credit/debit cards:

  • Never share your card number and PIN with anyone. 

  • While choosing the PIN, go for complex combinations. Avoid easy-to-crack ones like 1111, 1234, etc. 

  • Change the PIN number periodically. 

  • Do not write the PIN number down in a diary, along with the card or elsewhere. Memorise it. 

  • Turn on two-factor authentication for all your cards. With this feature, you have to enter the PIN as well as the OTP sent to your mobile every time you use the card for an online transaction. While a bit time consuming, it's worth it, as it amps up the security of the card significantly.

Rule #7: Practise Safe Internet Banking 

The rules mentioned for card usage are also applicable to your internet banking account.

  • Never share the login details with anyone. Do not write it down. Memorise it. Change the login/transaction passwords periodically. 

  • Choose security questions that are difficult to guess. Keep the answers to these questions confidential.

  • Use a strong password that is a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. 

  • Use a difficult username that is hard to guess. Using your name or date of birth as the login ID is not a smart choice. 

  • Do not login to your internet banking account using public Wi-Fi.

  • Register your mobile number with the bank to get real-time updates and alerts. 

  • Make it a habit to check your bank statement and transaction details once every day. If you notice something suspicious, make sure to report to your bank immediately. 

  • Don’t forget to log out of the mobile banking app after you use it. 

  • Secure all mobile wallets and other banking apps with a password. This keeps you safe, even if you lose your smartphone. 

  • If you're logging into your internet banking account from a public computer, use the virtual keyboard to avoid malware that tracks keyboard inputs. 

Rule #8: Beware of Phishing Calls 

Phishing is one of the most common types of online frauds in India. Scammers call unsuspecting victims, posing to be from banks/credit card companies. They ask you for confidential information like your debit card pin, OTP, internet banking password, etc. in the guise of verifying your identity. 

NEVER share sensitive financial information with anyone. Always remember that banks/card companies do NOT ask for confidential information. 

If you receive such calls, hang up and make sure to report the incident to your bank/card company so that they can take the right action and catch the scamsters. 

Rule #9: Avoid Storing your Card/Internet Banking Details on Digital Platforms 

During checkout, most eCommerce stores ask customers whether they want to store their card details for faster checkout the next time. While this is a time-saving feature, it is highly risky. If the eCommerce store or digital platform is compromised, so does your data. So, make sure to avoid storing your card details on third-party platforms.

Rule #10: Enable Remote Wiping of Phone Data

Our smartphones are more than a gadget to make and receive phone calls and text messages. They do so much more – from online shopping to paying utility bills. Losing your phone is akin to losing your wallet. Make sure that your confidential data doesn't land up in the wrong hands, in the unfortunate case of losing your smartphone.

Both Android and Apple phones allow users to remotely wipe data. Enable this feature to keep your financial data safe, even when your phone is lost/misplaced.


Prevention is Always Better than Cure

The risk involved in online transactions is as high as the convenience it adds to our lives. Make sure to follow these golden rules to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Financial safety is a lifelong virtue. You need to make it a habit. With a little alertness and smart decisions, you can avoid falling victim to online scams, and continue enjoying the benefits of online transactions and shopping.