Shopping online is easier than ever. With just a click of a mouse, families can buy anything from gifts to groceries, to the latest gadget—all without changing out of your PJs. While shopping online has its perks, you and your kids should also take precautions when making a purchase.
Before handing over your credit card details to your teen, here are some tips to help kids stay safe and protect themselves while shopping online.
Online shopping in Canada
Even before the pandemic forced many of us out of malls, Canadians were shopping online. In 2020, 82 per cent of Canadians shopped online and spent a staggering $84.4 billion dollars. Of those, 90 per cent were aged 15 to 24 years old, which just goes to prove that Gen Z are digital natives. COVID-19 certainly changed how Canadians shop, and it’s expected this holiday won’t be an exception. Last year, Canadians spent more than a third of their holiday budget online.
What are the risks of kids and teens buying online?
Phishing is a cyber attack that uses an email or text message to get personal or sensitive information from the person they are targeting. Unfortunately, phishing is the third most common scam in Canada. That’s why it’s important for parents to talk to their kids and teens. Explain how a phishing message could look like it’s from a financial institution, an online store, or social media, and to be cautious of suspicious emails or text messages.
Theft of data
Shopping online usually requires us to provide personal information, such as our full name, home address, and a credit card number or other method of payment. Explain to tweens and teens that theft of data and identity theft occurs online. They may be vulnerable to having their personal information stolen by cybercriminals who could hack into their account or commit other fraudulent activities, such as opening a credit card in their name.
If your teen spends as much time on their P.C. as they do in class, you probably don’t need to lecture them about the dangers of malware. But for the rest of us, malware is a catch-all phrase for malicious software, such as viruses, worms, or ransomware, that’s designed to harm a person’s device or network. Typically, cybercriminals use malware to obtain personal information which they can use for financial gain.
Fake online reviews
How many of us check the reviews before buying an item online? When there are near-identical items to choose from, that five star rating could be the deciding factor before clicking “add to shopping basket.” But, according to a 2017 report, approximately one-third of all online consumer reviews are fake. Kids and teens should be aware that some companies may encourage—or even employ—people to post favourable reviews online.
As online sales have increased, so have counterfeit goods in Canada—that’s according to the Better Business Bureau. Those top-dollar designer sneakers may be a knock-off. The Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network reports that between $20 and $30 billion in counterfeit products move through Canada every year. That’s a lot of fake products.
How can kids protect themselves when shopping online?
Here are some tips parents can share with tweens and teens to help protect them when shopping online:
Purchase from trusted and secure sites
Tweens and teens should shop at trusted sites. This means sites where the URL begins with “HTTPS.” They shouldn’t input their payment or personal details in a site that begins with “HTTP” only, as it does not have SSL encryption. Explain that kids should look for a locked padlock on any site they’re shopping at. The icon usually appears on the left of the URL in the address bar.
Tweens and teens should also be wary of sites that may look similar to trusted sites, but the URL is slightly different (for example amazon.net instead of amazon.ca), as they could be fake. Another red flag might be websites with typos or grammatical errors. Kids should also check to see if the website has a phone number and physical address before spending their money.
Protect your personal information
Kids and teens may not realize how much personal information they could unknowingly share online. Thanks to social media, casual acquaintances can know their birthday and even where they live. Remind kids not to over share details on social media sites or other places online. Similarly, if they’re shopping online and are asked questions about personal details such as financial data, they should consider the following:
- Is this information necessary for my online purchase?
- Who is collecting this information?
- What will they do with it?
Be wary of great deals
We all love a bargain, but if your tween or teen comes across an online deal that’s too good to be true, chances are it probably is. If an item is priced much lower than it normally is, it could mean the item is counterfeit or the website isn’t legitimate. Fake e-commerce sites are becoming increasingly common. To help mitigate the risk, teens and tweens should check out reviews of the site from multiple sources.
Create strong passwords
More than a few of us are guilty of using the same password without changing it frequently (if at all). But, in order to help protect yourself when shopping online, teens (and parents) should create a unique password—one that avoids using personal details like a pet’s name. There are plenty of password generators available online that will help kids create a password that’s tougher to crack. Kids and teens should also create a unique password for each website, rather than recycling the same password for every online shopping site.
Check your financial statements
While there are steps your kids can take to help shop online safely, it’s also a good idea to check your financial statements after purchasing items online. If your kids are a cardholder or using your credit card, review your credit card statements carefully.
What should kids and teens do if they think they’ve been scammed online?
If your tween or teen thinks they’ve been scammed online and they paid by credit card, you may be able to dispute the charges with the credit card company. Depending on the financial institution, credit card users typically have between 30 to 60 days to do so. Parents can also report fraudulent or suspicious activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) through their website or by calling 1-888-495-8501. Kids and teens should also change the passwords on any website or account that might be affected.
How can parents keep their kids safe online?
If your child is new to the world of shopping online, parents can help protect their kids by walking them through the process. But whether it’s their first time shopping online or their 50th, here are some things kids should consider before adding an item to their shopping cart:
- Look for the security symbol, such as a key or padlock, on the website
- Create strong, unique passwords when buying online
- Question “too good to be true” deals
- Research reviews of the site or product before providing their payment details
- Check for hidden fees, such as expensive shipment costs, before submitting a payment
- Don’t click on suspicious links or text messages
- Don’t save payment information to a site
Parents can also set ground rules about when and how their kids can buy items online. Perhaps your tween or teen needs to share the details of their purchase with you ahead of time—especially if they’re asking for your credit card to make the payment.
How Mydoh can help kids shop online safely
The Mydoh app and Smart Cash Card can help teens and tweens shop online safely. Your kids’ Smart Cash Card can be used anywhere Visa or Apple Pay is accepted. Mydoh gives parents oversight on your kids’ spending activity. And if there is any suspicious activity, Mydoh makes it easy for parents to lock the kids’ Smart Cash Card. Parents also have peace of mind in knowing that Mydoh is backed by RBC.
Learn more about how you can use Mydoh as a way to help your kids learn, earn, and save.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgement of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.