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This guide should give you some useful tips, and things to look out for when shopping online.
More of us are shopping online these days, even for the essentials, so it’s useful to understand:
Shopping online is very convenient, and you can find some good deals, but it’s best to purchase from companies you recognise or that have a good reputation.
Buying from online stores
Never give your personal or card information to a company you don’t recognise, or that you haven’t checked out first. You should be particularly wary if you spot:
Even big-named companies are vulnerable to fraud, but there are things you can check to make sure you’re on a genuine website:
Underlining all of this, always take your time to research before you make any online purchases. It’s a good idea to check that there’s at least a contact address and phone number on a website, just in case you need to get in touch later.
Buying from an individual online
A lot of the points covered above also apply to purchasing from individuals trading online, whether that’s on social media or a trading website, but there are some specific things to consider:
Be especially careful when you buy from a private seller, as opposed to a business. If something goes wrong, your legal rights may not be the same as when you are dealing with an official business.
Sellers on social media
Again, most of the points above apply to staying safe on social media. Be cautious about deals which seem too good to be true, any links you click and, in particular, what information you share. Information is valuable and, in the hands of a fraudster, could lead to identity theft.
Look for online reviews
Reading about the experiences of other customers should give you a feeling about the company you’re thinking of purchasing from. Obviously, bad feedback is a red flag.
Just be wary that not all reviews may be legitimate or typical, so you need to follow your own instincts to a degree.
Check where the company is based
When buying from a company based in Europe, you may still be protected by some of your consumer rights under UK law, regardless of which country's laws are said to be applicable in the contract.
Want to know more about scams?
You’ll find lots of information online, but we list some of the latest scams on our website. By seeing real examples, it could help you to spot a scam before any harm is done.
When you’re shopping online, it’s important to be on guard to prevent your valuable information getting into the wrong hands. You may find the following tips useful:
Protect your computer and devices
Take extra care when using a mobile device
Is the website you’ve visited safe?
Ready to make a purchase?
Find out more about fraud
If you’d like to learn more about keeping your card and personal details safe, you might like to read our guides about protecting yourself from fraud, including information about the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA).
We also list some of the latest scams on our website. By seeing real examples, it could help you to spot a scam before any harm is done.
It’s important that you understand the costs, stock availability and when you can expect to receive your item before you make a purchase online.
Watch out for additional charges
Sometimes charges such as VAT, customs duties if the seller is outside the UK, delivery and packaging may not be included in the price you’re shown, so make sure you read through all of the small print carefully. If you’re not sure you know about all of the charges, don’t go ahead with any purchases.
Check the delivery and returns/cancellation policy
Each retailer and service provider will set their own standards and policies for delivery, returns and cancellations, so make sure you read through those details before you make a purchase.
Delivery – make sure you’re aware of all delivery costs, and how soon goods or services will be provided.
Returns and cancellations – are there any restrictions or timescales you need to be aware of? Bear in mind that if you order an item from outside the UK, it may be expensive to return it.
Most websites will have information pages or frequently asked questions you can refer to, but if you’re in doubt you could contact the retailer or service provider to check.
Check that your item is in stock
Be especially careful if you’re thinking of buying an item that’s currently unavailable but ‘due in stock soon’. Estimates of when things will be restocked can be very unreliable and you could find yourself waiting a long time, or chasing a refund when items cannot be delivered at all.
Some websites offer a ‘stock alert’ service, so you’ll receive an email or text message when an item is back in stock, rather than taking your money in advance, reducing the risk to you.
In most instances, shopping online is convenient and quick, but if something does go wrong, of course it’s handy to know what to do about it.
Keep a record of your online transactions
It’s a good idea to print off pages or take screenshots, especially for larger online purchases. That way you’ll have the offer details and terms to refer to if there’s a problem later on. Websites are updated frequently, so it’s useful to have copies of information from the time you made your purchase.
Most companies will also send you an order confirmation by text message or email, which you should keep hold of as well.
Check receipts and order confirmations against your statement
Just be aware that some companies trade under different names, so double check any transactions you’re unsure of.
If you spot a transaction you don’t recognise
It’s important that you get in touch if you suspect your card has been used without your knowledge, or someone knows your Internet Banking log on details.
If there’s a problem with a transaction
You should try to resolve things with the retailer or service provider in the first instance. Just be careful if you correspond by email. Emails aren’t encrypted, so you shouldn’t include any personal or card details which you wouldn’t want anyone else to see or use.
You’ll find useful information on our credit card payment disputes pages. If you can’t resolve things direct, then we may be able to help.
Most credit card purchases of over £100 and up to £30,000 are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which means you could claim a refund if something you’ve paid for is faulty, doesn’t arrive or isn’t as described.