Safe online shopping

Unrecognised payments and disputes with a seller


If you haven’t got what you thought you were buying, or if you see a payment on your statement that you don’t recognise, it doesn’t always mean you’ve been the victim of fraud. Learn more about checking payments and seller disputes here:

I don’t recognise a payment on my credit card

I don’t recognise a payment on my debit card

Shopping online can be a great way of finding deals and can save you money as well as time. But remember not every deal or website you find online will be safe.

What to look out for:

  • Spelling mistakes - Look out for small spelling differences in the company’s website address. For example bankofshotland vs bankofscotland. Fake websites use slightly different spellings to trick you into thinking you’re visiting a well-known website.
  • Strange or odd looking webpages - Fake websites sometimes don’t look quite right. The colours and logo might look different to what you’d expect.
  • Deals that seem too good to be true - If the website’s prices are a lot lower than other online sellers, it might be a scam.
  • Unusual payment methods - Fraudsters may ask you to pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer. For example: Western Union. These payment types aren't easy to trace, and you may not get your money back if things go wrong.
  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
  • Time-limited offers – Fake websites may try to get you to spend money by putting pressure on you. For example, a great deal may only be available for a short amount of time.

What you can do:

How to protect yourself: setting up your device.

  • Use anti-virus software - Install it on your devices and keep it up to date. It’s a good idea to set it to scan at least once a week.
  • Pay attention to anti-virus warnings - Your anti-virus software should tell you when a site is unsafe to visit or if a file is unsafe to open.
  • Never switch off security settings - Don’t switch off security settings like your firewall, even if they annoy you.
  • Keep your devices up to date - Keep your browser, operating system and software up to date. Don’t keep putting off updates – it’s there to protect you.

How to protect yourself: before you pay online.

  • Look for the closed padlock - The most secure sites have a closed padlock in the address bar, and https:// at the beginning of the web address. Always look for these when you fill in your personal or banking details on a web page, or when you log in. Keep in mind: they won’t necessarily appear on other pages on the same website*. 
  • Search for reviews - Use a search engine to look for independent reviews before buying anything.
  • Be wary of links or attachments in unexpected text message or emails - Even if they seem to offer great deals, the link might take you to a fake website or infect your device with a virus. Look up the deal separately in a search engine to check it’s real.
  • Choose a safe payment method – Make sure you’re paying for anything online using standard payment methods. For example: using your debit or credit card on sites directly. Be careful paying using other methods.
  • Protect your PIN or personal details - Never enter private information, such as your PIN code, on a website or in an email.
  • Take your time - Spend some time making sure the offer is genuine and you’re happy to make the purchase.

*The closed padlock / https:// only tells you that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site itself is genuine. You'll still need to check the web address for misspellings, additional words and characters.

The internet is a great way to buy and sell new or second hand goods. But fraudsters also post fake adverts on social media such as Facebook or trading websites like Gumtree.

What to look out for:

  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
  • Deals that seem too good to be true - If the seller’s prices are a lot lower than other online sellers, it might be a scam.
  • Requests for advance payments - For large expensive items like cars and caravans, it's common for fraudsters to invite you to view the item. They will then ask you to send money and pick up the item the next day. Once they have your money they'll disappear. Don’t send any money until they hand the item over to you.
  • Unusual payment methods - Fraudsters often ask you to pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer. For example: Western Union. These payment types aren't easy to trace, and you may not get your money back if things go wrong.

What you can do:

  • Take your time - Spend some time making sure the offer is genuine and you’re happy to make the purchase.
  • Ask the seller questions - If the seller can't answer specific questions, doesn't want to discuss details, or seems to be in a hurry for you to send money, don't go ahead with the sale.
  • Choose a safe payment method – Make sure you’re paying for anything online using standard payment methods. For example: using your debit or credit card on sites directly. Be careful paying using other methods.
  • Make sure the seller hands over the item before paying - If you're buying something expensive like a car, avoid sending a bank transfer or cash until you have picked up the item. Once your money’s gone, it’s not easy to get back.
  • Go with someone if you’re meeting the seller in person - Don't go alone if you're meeting in person and handing over cash.

You can find great holiday deals on the internet. But fraudsters also set up fake websites that look real and could catch you out.

For example: you could arrive at your hotel or holiday home and it’s very different to what you expected. Or it may not exist at all.

What to look out for:

  • Suspicious emails and text messages - Fraudsters sometimes send messages pretending to be from real companies. In these messages you may see links that could lead you to a fake website, or cause a virus to download onto your device.
  • Spelling mistakes - Look out for small spelling differences in the company’s website address. For example bankofshotland vs bankofscotland. Fake websites use slightly different spellings to trick you into thinking you’re visiting a well-known website.
  • Strange or odd looking webpages - Fake websites sometimes don’t look quite right. The colours and logo might look different to what you’d expect.
  • The holiday sounds too good to be true - Fraudsters target popular holiday destinations and rental types by offering much lower prices. If the seller’s prices are a lot lower than other online sellers, it might be a scam.
  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
  • Unusual payment methods - Fraudsters often ask you to pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer. For example: Western Union. These payment types aren't easy to trace, and you may not get your money back if things go wrong.

What you can do:

  • Take your time - Spend some time making sure the offer is real and you’re happy to pay.
  • Book with companies that are ABTA and ATOL registered – It’s a good idea to book holidays with companies that are ABTA protected. You can look up the holiday company name on the ABTA website to make sure it’s real.
  • Use the ABTA website before booking your holiday - You can use the ABTA website to go directly to a holiday company’s website. This way you can make sure the website you’re using is real.
  • Choose a safe payment method – Make sure you’re paying for anything online using standard payment methods. For example: using your debit or credit card on sites directly. Be careful paying using other methods.

You can find great bargains on booking websites like Airbnb and Facebook. But fraudsters can use these sites to trick you into booking rentals that don’t exist.

What to look out for:

  • You leave the booking site to pay - Fraudsters may ask you to book by email instead of on the booking website. Make sure you book through the booking site alone.
  • Unusual payment methods - Fraudsters may ask you to pay by direct bank transfer, or wire transfer like Western Union. These payment types aren't easy to trace, so you're unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong.
  • The offer sounds too good to be true – Fraudsters may offer desirable properties at much lower prices. If the host’s prices are a lot lower than other rentals, it might be a scam.
  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different people are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.

What you can do:

  • Follow the terms and conditions of the booking website when paying - Don't send any money in a way that goes against the website’s rules.
  • See what your friends and family say – Ask friends and family to recommend hosts that they’ve used before. This can help you avoid some of the problems that can occur when you book with a stranger.

It can be tempting to buy cheap tickets to an event from an unofficial seller. But if the tickets are fake you might not know until you're turned away at the event. That’s if you receive any tickets at all.

What to look out for:

  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
  • The ticket price sounds too good to be true – Fraudsters may offer tickets at low prices. If the seller’s prices are a lot lower than others, it might be a scam.
  • Unusual payment methods - Fraudsters may ask you to pay by direct bank transfer, or wire transfer like Western Union. These payment types aren't easy to trace, so you're unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong.

What you can do:

  • Use a ticket reseller website – Using a real ticket reseller is safer than buying through social media or trading websites. Good ticket reselling companies will be registered with STAR.
  • Check the seller website's terms and conditions - Make sure you know how the website can help you if things go wrong. Don't agree to buy your tickets in a way that goes against the website’s rules.
  • Stay on the seller website - The ticket seller may ask you to switch to email to buy your tickets.  Don’t. It’s usually safer to pay through the website’s internal payment system, if they have one.
  • Choose how to pay - It’s not always possible to get your money back if you pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer like Western Union.

Buyer Beware

Read all the details


Read all the details about what you’re buying before you pay for it. Does the description match the title and picture?

Be careful of free trials


If you agree to a free trial, check to make sure that you’re not signing up to an expensive monthly subscription. These terms might be hidden in the small print.

Check the small print


Read the company’s terms and conditions. They should tell you about any hidden costs, as well as delivery and returns information.

Know where you're buying from


It’s easier to complain and get your money back from companies that are based in the UK and EU. Check the location of the seller you’re buying from, especially if they are less well-known.

Search for the FAQs


Most online shops have a Frequently Asked Questions page. This can help you quickly find key information.

Keep track of your purchases


Check your account statements regularly for any payments you don’t recognise.

If you came to this page from our credit card or current account (debit card) pages, you can return here:

Credit cards         Current accounts