The National Cyber Security Centre has issued advice on how to stay safe when purchasing items online and to avoid falling victim to scammers.
Shopping online can save time and effort and gives you a wide choice of goods from around the world.
Unfortunately, while most buyers and sellers are genuine, fraudsters use online shopping scams because they can hide their identities and target many victims at the same time.
To protect yourself, The National Cyber Security Centre recommends that you:
Choose carefully where you shop - It's worth doing some research on online retailers to check they're legitimate. Read feedback from people or organisations that you trust, such as consumer websites.
Use a credit card for online payments - Most major credit card providers protect online purchases, and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances. Using a credit card (rather than a debit card) also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account won’t be directly affected.
Only provide enough details to complete your purchase - You should only fill in the mandatory details on a website when making a purchase. These are usually marked with an asterisk (*), and will typically include your delivery address and payment details. You shouldn't have to provide security details (such as your mother's maiden name, or the name of your first pet) to complete your purchase.
Keep your accounts secure - If you're using the same password for your online accounts (or using passwords that could be easily guessed), then you're at risk. Hackers could steal your password from one account, and use it to access your other accounts. For this reason, you should make sure that your really important accounts are protected by strong passwords that you don't use anywhere else.
Watch out for suspicious emails, calls and text messages - You'll probably receive many messages from online stores, as a result of 'opting in' to receiving communications from them. Lurking amongst these genuine messages, there may well be fake ones (containing links designed to steal your money and personal details) that can be very difficult to spot.
If you think your credit or debit card has been used by someone else, let your bank know straight away so they can block anyone using it.
Always contact your bank using the official website or phone number. Don't use the links or contact details in the message you have been sent or given over the phone.
If you've lost money as a result of an online scammer, you can report it as a crime to Action Fraud and help to prevent others from becoming victims of cybercrime.