Byte-Size Tech: Essential Tips for Safer Online Shopping

HTTPS? SSL? What about those pop-up businesses that advertise on social media? Libby Powers and Marcia Spicer of Anderson Technologies break down some essential tips and potential problems to watch out for when shopping online. If you’re worried that your shopping or surfing habits have compromised your business, contact Anderson Technologies today.


Libby Powers: Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Byte-Size Tech. I want to introduce you to Marcia. Marcia is a team member that actually wears a lot of hats here at Anderson Technologies. In addition to being a member of our Archival team, she also helps build content for our website. In that role she’s done a lot of reading on cybersecurity scams, privacy, and online safety. I actually asked Marcia to come on Byte-Size Tech to talk to you about something everybody does these days: online shopping. Marcia?

Marcia Spicer: Hi, Libby. Online shopping isn’t something that we deal with on a regular basis at Anderson Technologies. That tends to fall outside of our sphere. But it is something that could affect your data privacy and could lead to a business breach. With so much of our lives shifting more and more online in the past year, that’s not likely to go away, it’s probably a good time to review a couple of tips. If you don’t do your shopping online, you might want to watch anyway, because some of these tips can apply to just about anything that you do online, so there will be a takeaway for you.

Libby Powers: Awesome. What do you have for us then? I’m excited to learn this.

Marcia Spicer: Okay, I’m sure you’ve got some tried and true shopping websites that you know, and you trust their name brands. You’ve had great experiences with them, but maybe you’re thinking about making a purchase from a new site for the first time. When you’re in that situation, it’s time to slow down. There are a couple things to look at.

First, you want to look at the website address. There are two big things to look for here. The first step is HTTPS. If you click on the address bar—it’s at the top of your web browser—you should be able to see the full address of the website that you’re on. This will either begin with an HTTP or an HTTPS. The HTTPS is what you want. This is a security standard that means that the site has SSL encryption installed.

Libby Powers: Oh, what’s SSL encryption?

Marcia Spicer: SSL encryption means that any information that you submit to the site—say, your credit card, for example, or your address, phone number—when you submit that to the website, it’s encrypted, or encoded, so that criminals that might be trying to eavesdrop on your traffic or gain access to the website, they can’t see that data and they can’t steal it.

Libby Powers: Okay, well, that’s a great tip. So look for HTTPS at the very beginning of the website, right?

Marcia Spicer: Yes.

Libby Powers: Well, what else do you have now?

Marcia Spicer: While you’re looking at your website address, you’ll want to carefully look at the whole address. You probably know what site you want to be on, and you want to make sure that that address matches that site. It can be something super close, but sometimes there is just a little bit off. Maybe you’re thinking you want to be at, and when you look at that website address, you see “” or “Target.ra” or something that might not be the actual website. Something’s fishy.

Then there’s another type of website that’s sketch for shopping. These fun niche products pop up all the time on social media. I see them on Instagram and Facebook, I’ve got little kids, they know their audience. I saw this adorable little octopus stuffed animal, and I thought my daughter would just die. When I clicked through on the website…. Everything looked legit in the ad, but when I clicked through, I noticed that the octopus plush was the only thing they were selling. Sure, it was in different colors, but that was their only product. That’s the only thing that business did. So I had a little bit of doubt there.

Libby Powers: Hesitation?

Marcia Spicer: It’s time to look a little bit closer. As I’m kind of scrolling through the website, there’s messages popping up and throughout the website that says “Buy now! We’re almost sold out! There’s none left! We’re having a sale and you need to buy right now!” And for a lot of people, I think that would be like, “Oh yes, I’ve got to take advantage of this deal.” For me, since I’ve done so much reading, I took it as, “Hang on. They’re trying to get me to act quickly and not look closely.”

Libby Powers: To not pay attention, yeah.

Marcia Spicer: Right. If you do end up making a purchase from a shady site like this, you can risk having your data stolen. A lot of people never receive their package, or they receive something that’s a super cheap knockoff that doesn’t look anything like what they wanted to buy. They’re pop-up businesses, basically. They make their money from drop-shipping bad products from China [or] from other countries, the company can disappear overnight, you can’t make returns, you’re not going get a refund, you’re probably not going to be able to contact customer service—all around just not a great experience for you. Sometimes you can even look up the same product on a site you do trust or just a search engine, and you can find something really similar but it’s from a trusted site.

That octopus plushie? I did a quick search for it, and I found the exact same product on a site that I used before. It had a lower price, it had normal shipping rates, it wasn’t anything while that they were trying to railroad me for money, there was none of the “You’ve got to buy it right this second” messaging, so I felt a lot safer going through with that purchase.

Libby Powers: You know, something that you say is the “Buy now” messaging, and I think you’re spot on with that, because it’s psychological for people to feel like they’re missing out on something. And those ads are everywhere: They’re on Facebook, they’re on LinkedIn, they’re on every social media platform you could think of. I think of the phrase “Too good to be true.” That’s such an important thing to have in mind when we do anything online.

Marcia Spicer: Exactly. And that message is going to apply to any site that you visit. When you’re looking for that HTTPS, know that that S, that SSL encoding, is standard. Every website you visit should have that HTTPS at the beginning. And even if you think you’re where you want to be, take a moment to double check, because a lot of times those promises of things that are too good to be true are so tempting that we just got to pump the brakes just a little bit and take a moment to look at the surroundings online.

Libby Powers: I really appreciate you sharing these tips. I think you probably have more tips that you could share because online…everything is online, our entire lives are online. What we can do to protect our information is really important. We’ve got to do our due diligence.

Marcia Spicer: That’s so true. I’ve got more tips if you’ll have me back for more videos.

Libby Powers: Of course. And if you’re concerned that dodgy online shopping habits have given access to the wrong people, then give us a call. Thanks so much. Have a great day.

Marcia Spicer: Bye.