Top ways to be scam savvy when shopping online
Published 22 October 2014 by Emily Bancroft
Stay safe when shopping online by following our simple guide to avoid being scammed.
With the Christmas shopping season coming up, more and more of us may be heading online to bag a bargain. However, you need to make sure you’re on your guard when shopping online or you could be at risk of getting scammed or falling victim to a fraud. This week (20 – 26th October) is Get Safe Online Week.
As you prepare for the festive season, here are thinkmoney’s top tips to staying safe with online shopping:
Beware of deals that seem too good to be true: if a website offers you a free iPad, or a popular kids’ toy for £10 when you know it typically costs £100, it’s probably not to be trusted. Use your common sense – plenty of websites will have extra deals and discounts due to Christmas coming up, and they’re not all trying to scam you. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always do your research, read buyer’s reviews and shop around.
Look for indicators a website is safe: on any website where you’re entering personal information, check you’re on a secure connection. To do this, look for the padlock symbol next to the website’s address in your browser and the https:// prefix. This lets you know that the seller’s website is secure when you enter personal information and payment details. If you’re on a well-known retailer’s website, make sure you check that the address is what you think it should be if you’ve come to the page through an unusual link. Check the company has a contact number and address and that this checks out when you do an online search, as scam sites usually won’t have these details.
Check for multiple mistakes: a number of misspellings or grammatical errors can be a warning sign, as it suggests that the website isn’t run by a trusted seller. Scam websites are often cheaply translated into English and various other languages, leading to text that doesn’t really make sense.
Don’t click on links in emails you don’t recognise: if you receive an email from an online retailer that you don’t know, it could be a phishing scam – an attempt to steal your personal data. Even if it appears to be from a recognisable company, if you’re not signed up to their mailing list, it could be a fake email, so steer clear of any links or attachments.
Use strong passwords on websites: if you’re asked to make an account on a website where you’re entering your card details, make sure you use a strong password, using a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols. Don’t use the same password for each website. It can be tricky to keep track of your various passwords, but there are password manager apps available, so you don’t have to remember them all by heart.
Buy using your credit card for extra safety: try to buy larger or higher cost items using your credit card, as all purchases are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This ensures that if the seller doesn’t send your goods, you’ll be able to reclaim the cost of purchases bought for between £100 and £30,000. You may also have protection on purchases you make through your debit card, but this can vary between providers.
Don’t buy on a public computer: if you’re using a computer on a public network (such as at work, school, or a library), don’t use it to do your Christmas shopping. The computer could be compromised, meaning your card details may not be safe.
Keep your system and antivirus up to date: make sure you keep your computer’s operating system and antivirus software updated to ensure that you’re protected against any viruses or spam attacks. Older operating systems don’t always receive security updates, so you could be unsafe when entering your card details or personal information.
If you’ve any more concerns about the dangers of shopping online, check out Stay Safe Online for the facts around how to make sure you’re protected and the scams you should be aware of.