From wall stickers to throw cushions, kitchenware and furniture, if you want something for your home, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it online. And sometimes it’s easier too – there’s a bigger variety, you don’t have to work out how (if it’s a bigger item) you’re going to get it home or even send it back if it’s the wrong fit.

At the same time, South Africans are still optimistically cautious when it comes to online shopping. We question everything from the trustworthiness of certain sites to entering our credit card – and other personal – details online.

No matter the size of the purchase, it’s important to be vigilant because scammers and cybercriminals are rife. And while PayPal is great for international shopping on sites like Amazon and Etsy, most local retailers don’t offer this alternative payment method.

Launched recently, Visa Checkout (which now works with Aramex Global Shopper, YuppieChef and a number of other online retailers) is one way to make sure your credit or debit card details stay secure.

Essentially, Visa Checkout, like PayPal, is a safe digital checkout service where you can pay with your credit or debit card online. It’s also really easy – you sign up once, storing your card details and shipping information with Visa. And then, if the place you’re shopping at offers Visa Checkout when it’s time to pay, you select it instead. (It also means you’ll never have to re-enter your name, card numbers, etc. every time you pay, so there’s also of a chance of keystroke logging, a popular way for cybercriminals to steal personal data.)

It’s important to protect yourself online – that means your credit card details and personal information. And while you can trust sites that work with Visa Checkout, you should always check that every online retailer is secure. One way to do this quickly is to look out for a padlock symbol next to URL bar – you can click on it to see a website’s security certificate. Also, an online shopping site should always contain the letters “https” in the URL. The “s” in https stands for secure. Websites that use https are safer because they encrypt any information you enter online.

Lastly, go with your gut. If the merchant doesn’t seem legitimate, don’t follow through with payment or personal details. To reduce the risk of fraud, your first choice should always be a website with an established, online shopping reputation.

Image: iStock