Online shopping is a great way to compare prices, find bargains and save money from anywhere with an internet or mobile data connection. But as its popularity has increased, so have the risks, with more and more people trying to scam you out of your money or steal your card details. Thankfully, if you follow a few simple rules you can have a safe and secure online shopping experience.
Online shopping safety tips
These are some really simple ways to shop safely online you can use every day:
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 standard data connection is more secure.
Pay using a credit card. You will have more protection. Alternatively, online services like PayPal 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.
You can find out more about these tips in the rest of our guide.
How to shop safely online
Research the website and seller
There are thousands of websites to go shopping on the internet, many with thousands more independent sellers. The majority of these are perfectly legitimate, but spotting the fraudulent ones 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. For independent sellers on a website, you can check out their online reviews on a site like TrustPilot.
Better known ecommerce websites are certainly more reliable, but can be vulnerable to pharming attacks. You can find out more about these later on. If in doubt, check Companies House, or, for financial services companies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register.
Returns and counterfeiting?
If you’re buying an expensive item, check the manufacturers website to make sure you’re using an authorised distributor or seller.
There is also some information 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 policy is will help you if something is not delivered or arrives broken, even if the seller was not trying to scam you.
There is also a large online market for selling counterfeit goods. These can be hard to spot, even when you’ve got the product in your hand. But being aware of this and researching what the real thing would cost, will give you an idea of when an offer is too good to be true.
Read more the Money Advice Service