Don’t fall victim to fraud this festive season.
*The losses were suffered by people buying online who were tricked into paying money directly into a criminal’s bank account, including frauds promoted through social media and auction websites (with thanks to UK Finance for the statistics).
But the actual figure is considerably higher, as the majority of purchase frauds go unreported by their victims.
Whether you’re looking for a pair of trainers or an e-scooter, perfume or a car, a games console or a subscription – or that hard-to-find special gift – you can take some simple steps to avoid becoming a victim.
Your top online buying safety tips
Please read our expert, easy-to-follow safety tips to help protect you from falling victim to purchase scams, and be sure to pass them on.
- However desperate you are to buy an item that’s in short supply or a late present, don’t pay for it by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know. If it’s a fraud, your bank may not be able to recover or give you back your money. If you can, pay by credit card.
- Many fraudsters are substantial organisations which operate as businesses, with the resources to set up fake websites that are very similar to the real thing. Make sure a website is authentic by carefully checking the address is spelled correctly. Ideally, type it in rather than clicking on a link in an email, text or post. Or go to www.getsafeonline.org/checkawebsite
- Learn how to spot fraudulent advertisements on social media, online marketplaces and forums. Never part with your payment – even a deposit – for goods you haven’t seen in person.
- Don’t click on links in emails, texts or posts that you’re not expecting, and don’t open unexpected email attachments.
- Make sure payment pages are secure by checking that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar. But remember: the https and closed padlock mean that the page is secure, but the site could still be operated by fraudsters.
- Log out of the web page or app when payment is completed. Simply closing it may not log you out automatically.
- Don’t knowingly buy fake or counterfeit goods and do all you can to make sure brands you do buy are genuine. Fakes are of inferior quality, contravene copyright law and affect the livelihoods of workers who make the real thing. They can also be unsafe to use.
- ‘Low-cost’ or ‘free’ trials can cause problems if you don’t read the small print and look for independent reviews. Whether they’re for the latest handset or slimming pills, you could be signing up for large monthly direct debits which are very hard to cancel. And if it’s for slimming or any other pills, check our advice on Buying Medicines on the Get Safe Online website.
- Text messages and emails claiming to be from home delivery firms are also commonplace, informing you that there’s a charge for re-delivering a parcel, or a shipping fee to be paid. However busy you are or how much online shopping you do, keep a record of everything you buy and, if it’s specified, which parcel delivery firm the retailer is using.
- Do your research when it comes to pricing. Some sellers advertise products at a bargain or lower price during sales or events like Black Friday, when in fact they’re no cheaper or even more expensive.
- Reporting fraud is essential. If you’ve lost money to fraud, report it immediately to your bank, as this will increase your chance of getting your money back and the fraudster being traced. Also, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre on 0300 123 20 40 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk In Scotland, report fraud to Police Scotland by cng 101.