This huge growth has been accompanied by a development of techniques and a rise in the levels of online fraud and cybercrime.
It's increasingly important to take steps to stay safe when making any sort of transaction online.
What sites are you using?It may be sensible to stick to well-known sites and brands but you can't always find everything you want at major online stores, especially if you are looking for a niche purchase. Less well known sites might also offer cheaper prices but if an offer looks too good to be true you should take extra care.
A quick online search could show you what other people are saying about a particular website or merchant.
One concrete way of verifying a site's security is to check for an SSL certificate. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol for enabling data encryption on the Internet and for helping website users confirm the owner of the web site.
The use of a free ssl web proxy can help prevent attackers from intercepting your payment details and other information when you make a transaction via a website. Look for a padlock icon in your browser window and ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link.
Some SSL certificates will also turn the address bar green in browsers with high-security settings.
Making the paymentYou may be asked to create an account with a password before making an online payment. Use a strong password with a combination of letters and numbers and stay away from birthdays, other easily guessed information and insecure passwords like the all too commonly used 'PASSWORD'.
Remember that you should never be asked to provide your PIN or online banking passwords when making a purchase online.