Top tips for safer online shopping

5 common scams and how to spot them

The festive season is on its way, and for many of us that means it’s time to hit the shops. Online shopping is great for bargain-hunters, but did you know that almost a third of online shoppers admit that they are more likely to take a financial risk - for example shop on an unfamiliar or unsecure website - if an online retailer offers them a bargain?[1] 

The good news is, there are easy ways to sharpen your scam-spotting skills and shop online with confidence.

Watch the video to find out more.

Spot a suspicious email

  • Received a tempting discount? Be sure the sender is who they claim to be.
  • Check the email address, not just the sender’s name. Is it what you’d expect for that brand?
  • Is the message personalised? If you’re a customer and have signed up for emails, they should know your name.
  • Before you click, hover over a link to see where it would really take you.
  • If in doubt, phone the shop to check the email is genuine. Get their number from a trusted source – not from the email.

Back to top

Be wise to fake websites

Did you know that 28,000 websites have been exposed as selling counterfeit goods since 2014?[2] It’s safest to shop with companies you know have a good reputation, but be wary of imposters. Look for:

  • Correct web address spelling – some fake websites will have a slightly different spelling to the genuine site.
  • Simple web addresses – major brands rarely use complicated web addresses.
  • Full, clear and well-written contact details, returns policies and terms and conditions.
  • Secure payment page – look for a padlock or unbroken key symbol in your browser, beside the web address. It should also begin https:// instead of http:// – the ‘s’ stands for secure.
  • Secure payment options: credit cards or reputable payment services, such as PayPal.

Back to top

Stand up to pressure tactics

  • Be suspicious of ads with flashing countdowns and very time-sensitive offers – even if they appear on otherwise genuine websites. It’s a tactic to rush you into reacting without giving it proper thought.
  • Take time to research the seller on reputable review sites, and to get a sense of whether the price on offer is realistic. If it sounds too good to be true, it often is.

Back to top

Avoid online auction fraudsters

Be choosy about who you buy from. Look for a long selling history with lots of positive feedback. Tread cautiously if there are no photos of the item, or minimal details. Keep in mind that scams often involve low-value items – buyers can be less vigilant when the risk seems small.
Always refuse requests to pay for items away from the auction site’s usual methods – don’t follow links to another website, or agree to pay in cash.

Back to top

Protect against a data hack

It wouldn’t take long to guess the world’s most popular passwords. According to a report, last year it was 123456.[3]

Today’s smart hackers could crack that in no time. Strong passwords are crucial – and you can find some useful tips for creating them here.

Once created, all passwords should be kept safe. Any unexpected email or text requesting that you reset a password, or telling you that your password has been changed, should be treated as suspicious. If in doubt, delete the email.

Back to top

Know what to do if things go wrong

If you think you may have been the victim of an online shopping scam of any kind, alert us immediately, then contact Action Fraud (you will leave the BoS website).

Related Links