Online shopping safety tips

14th April 2021

Online shopping has grown incredibly fast since the first lockdown in March 2020,

Online shopping has grown incredibly fast since the Covid-19 Pandemic back in March 2020, and with many stores now vanishing from our high streets, online shopping is attracting both young and old with extremely competitive pricing, express delivery and free returns. 

If you haven’t shopped online before it can be a bit daunting so we’ve put together some really simple ways to shop safely online:

  • Research retailers online to make sure they’re legitimate
  • Make sure the website is secure
  • Know your rights and the company’s returns policy
  • Keep software and virus protection up-to-date and use strong passwords for online accounts
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi, your home connection is more secure
  • Using online services like PayPal will mean scammers will not be able to get hold of your bank details
  • Be smart. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is

Research the website and seller

There are thousands of websites where you can shop online and the majority of these are perfectly legitimate, but spotting a fake takes a bit of research.

If you’re using a website you’ve not used before, search for them online to see if they have any negative feedback. Check out their online reviews on a site like Smart Money People, TrustPilot or Feefo.

How you can tell if a website is secure

Only ever put your card details in to secure websites. Check for the following signs to know you are shopping safely but remember, this only means the site is secure, not that the seller is honest.

Padlock symbol – There should be a small padlock symbol in the address bar next to the website address.

Website address – This should start with https://. The S stands for secure

Valid certificate – If you click the padlock symbol you should see information on the site certificate. This should tell you who has registered the site. If you get a warning about a certificate, avoid the website.

Delivery, returns and fakes

There are also a couple of other things you should find out before buying online.

How long will delivery take and where is the item being sent from? A UK or Europe-based seller should be able to deliver within a week if the item is in stock.

What is the returns policy? If they don’t seem to have one, you should be suspicious. Knowing what the returns policy is will help you if something is not delivered or arrives broken.

There is also a large online market for selling fake and counterfeit goods. These can be very hard to spot, even when you’ve got the product in your hand. Research the product you’re looking for and be aware of its average cost – there are some great bargains to be had online but if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Online security

There are several things you can do to keep yourself safe online.

Make sure your software and anti-virus protection is up-to-date. Updates often contain changes that help protect you and your devices from scammers and online criminals.

Always choose strong passwords for your online accounts, using a combination of upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters. Using a phrase or sentence is good practice. Keep your passwords secure and change them regularly.

Wi-Fi security

Make sure the internet connection you are using is secure. Don’t use public Wi-Fi in coffee shops, shopping centres and other places to shop online.

This is because public Wi-Fi is often unsecure, which means any information you send while connected to these networks can be accessed by fraudsters. 

The safest way to purchase online

Protecting yourself when paying is very important. You might lose a bit of money if you buy from a fake seller, but you can lose a lot of money if your details get stolen.

Many banks and building societies are adding extra security when you buy online, involving two-factor authorisation (2FA).

This means, when you’re at an online checkout, you will have to pass an extra level of security to prove it’s you making the purchase.

The most common form of 2FA is a one-off code, sent by text message, to the phone number registered to the account. 

Using an e-money service like PayPal is worth considering as you don’t have to give out your actual card details.

What to do if something goes wrong

The first step, if you have been sent the wrong or defective items, should be to contact the online seller and the website you used such as eBay or Amazon.

If you paid on a card and you’re not happy with the retailer’s response, or you have received no response, contact your card provider.

If you think your card has been used fraudulently let your bank know straight away.