Online shopping safety

More and more shopping is being done online. Google helps consumers find products in a number of different ways, and, while we don’t control the content on the Web, we want to help consumers shop safely online. The vast majority of online transactions are completed without any problems, but in some cases there are risks, and that’s why we’ve created this page with useful tips and tools you can use in your online shopping.

Safety Tips

  • If it’s too good to be true…: it usually is. Compare the price you’re seeing with similar goods being sold elsewhere. If the price is significantly different, use caution – make sure that you research the seller and ask questions about the condition of the item. When a site offers products that are heavily discounted, contains bad grammar and misspellings, and uses low-quality images of the brand owner’s official site, it might be selling counterfeit products. Be careful, though, as some sites selling counterfeit products mimic the brand owner’s site by imitating the layouts and using similar images or using a domain name incorporating the brand.

  • Research unfamiliar sellers: If you haven’t shopped from a merchant before, check beforehand to make sure they’re legitimate. For example, find out more about their business history and do a web search for reviews from other buyers with experience with the seller. Legitimate merchants should provide you with contact information that you can reference if you have any questions or problems with your transaction, which may include a physical address, contact phone number, or email address. Many sites selling counterfeit products will have official sounding URLs, which might include phrases like [brand]onsale.com or official [brand].com. Checking the site’s WhoIs record is one way that might reveal who owns the domain.

  • Use a payment method with buyer protections: In many cases, credit card companies limit your liability for online purchases in cases of fraud. Some online payment systems do not share your full credit card number with sellers in order to give you extra protections.

  • Read the fine print: Before you purchase, make sure that you're familiar with the seller’s shipping, warranty and return policy. Some stores will offer full refunds, while others charge restocking fees and give only store credit.

  • Keep a record of the transaction: Having a digital or paper copy of large transactions can help you if you do need to make a return or contest unauthorised charges made to your account.

  • Avoid hacked sites and keep an eye on the browser’s address bar. If you click on a link and get instantly redirected, that site may have been hacked and contain malware. Malware, such as viruses, worms and Trojan horses, can silently install unwanted software on your computer. Some hacked sites won’t automatically redirect you to a different page, but may contain irrelevant and spammy content on the page. Keeping an eye on the address bar to ensure that the link you click on is the one you are delivered to is one way to be vigilant.

  • Type sensitive web addresses into your browser's address bar: Don’t navigate to sensitive accounts by clicking a link or copying and pasting the address. Instead, type out the web address yourself. But make sure that you’re inputting the correct address; some typosquatting sites look exactly like the real site, but are set up to phish your account information.

  • Avoid entering personal information on suspicious sites. If a site is asking for personal information beyond what is required to purchase a product or receive a service (e.g. bank account information, security question answers or passwords) be suspicious as these types of enquiries may be indicative of a phishing attempt. Some sites may be a carbon copy of the official site, including logos and text, but are set up by fraudsters with the sole purpose of obtaining your personal information. Here are some tips to avoid and report phishing sites.

  • Make sure that your passwords are strong: Don't reuse passwords across multiple accounts, and remember to change them periodically, especially if you suspect your account may be at risk. Take a look at more tips on how to choose a smart password.

  • Only send information over secure connections: Look for the https:// connection in the address bar (and the padlock icon in your address bar if you’re using Google Chrome or Internet Explorer) when transmitting any sensitive information such as credit card or bank numbers. When accessing financial accounts, check that the website has an Extended Validation Certificate – the URL or website name should show up as green in the URL bar of many modern browsers, meaning the organisation that operates the website has been validated.

  • Avoid conducting financial transactions on public computers: Avoid logging into accounts that contain sensitive financial information (e.g. bank or credit card accounts or commerce websites) on public or shared computers. If you do access such information on a public or shared computer, remember to sign out completely and close your browser window after you've finished.

  • Make sure that you got what you paid for: Once you've received the item, give it a quick once-over to make sure everything is as it should be. The sooner you can try to address a case of fraud, the better chance you have to resolve it positively.

Where can you go for additional help?

There are several organisations that may help consumers report and resolve complaints:

The Better Business Bureau and the National Consumers League both offer information. http://www.bbb.org/pittsburgh/migration/bbb-news-releases/2012/12/counteract-counterfeiting-and-shoddy-knock-offs-on-the-internet/ and www.fraud.org

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm

If your complaint is against a company in a foreign country, you may be able to report complaints at http://www.econsumer.gov/

In EU, European Consumer Centres' Network helps consumers find solutions to such cross-border shopping problems.http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/ecc/index_en.htm

Safety tools

Discover the Top 5 Google online safety features designed to help you keep your family safe online.

Google Accounts

Make your Google Account even more secure

You can add an extra layer of security to your Google Account by enabling 2-step verification. If you have 2-step verification turned on, Google will send a passcode to your mobile phone when someone tries to sign in to your account from an unfamiliar computer. This means that if someone steals or guesses your password, the potential attacker still can’t sign in to your account because they don’t have your phone. Now you can protect yourself with something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone).

Learn more

Access your settings by clicking your name or picture in the right-hand corner then clicking Account.

At the top, click Security. In the Password box, click Setup next to “2-Step verification.”

You will then see a step-by-step guide which will help you through the setup process.

You’ll then be taken back to 2-step verification settings. Review your settings and add backup phone numbers.

You’ve finished! Next time you sign in, you’ll receive an SMS with a verification code.

Chrome

Browse the web in private

You can use Incognito Mode in the Chrome browser on your computer, tablet or phone to browse the web privately. In Incognito Mode, the pages that you visit and files that you download aren't recorded in Chrome’s browsing or download history.

Learn more

Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar → Click New Incognito Window.

A new window will open with the incognito icon in the corner. To exit, simply close the window.

Google Accounts

Your Google Account, your way

On your Account settings page, you can see services and information associated with your Google Account and change your security and privacy settings.

Learn more

Access settings by clicking your name or picture in the right corner, then clicking Account.

Google Accounts

Get an alert if your name appears on the web

Me on the Web can help you understand and manage what people see when they search for you on Google. It helps you set up Google Alerts so you can monitor if information about you appears online, and it automatically suggests some search terms that you may want to keep an eye on.

Learn more

Sign in to your Google Account and navigate to the “Me on the Web” section.

Click Manage my Web Alerts, and then click the red button to create an alert.

Your name will show up in the text field. Click the text field to view more suggested alerts.

Click Add to add an alert. Click the pencil icon to make edits and the bin icon to delete.

In the “How often” drop-down, choose the frequency of alerts.

Google Accounts

Manage the data stored in your Google Account

Google Dashboard shows you what's stored in your Google Account and provides an overview of some of your recent account activity. From one central location, you can easily view your data and activity and access your settings for services such as Blogger, Calendar, Docs, Google+ and more.

Learn more

Visit Dashboard to see a summary of the data associated with your Google Account and manage your personal settings.

From here, see and manage data stored in your Google Account.

See more safety tools