Shopping online can be a great way to save you time and money.
But some deals and websites are used to hide scams.
The safest way to buy online is with your bank or credit card. Your card will help to protect your money should anything go wrong.
Fraudsters often want you to pay directly to a bank account or by wire transfer. But it’s like handing over cash and is hard to trace.
If you pay one of these ways and it turns out to be a scam, it’s very hard to get your money back.
Tips to buying online safely
We all want to find amazing deals online, but even a bargain costs money. When prices on a site are a lot lower than other sellers, it could be a scam.
Fraudsters can send a text or email with a link to a great deal. This may take you to a fake site or infect your device with a virus. If you get a message like this, don’t use the link. Use a search engine or your browser to try to find the deal to make sure it’s real.
Ask questions before you buy. If a seller can't give any details about an item or tries to hurry you into paying, it’s a sign of a scam.
Take your time to check reviews to make sure a site or deal is genuine before you choose to buy. Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
One of the first things you can do to make sure a website is real and not fake is to check the address.
Look in the browser bar to see if the address is spelt correctly. Fake sites can use names that are close but not the same as the real thing, like Lioyds and not Lloyds.
To visit a site, it’s safer to type the address into the browser bar than to click on a link.
Once you’re on a site, see if the pages look normal. If the layout, colours or logo don’t look quite right, it could be fake.
Before you fill in personal or banking details on a site, look for the closed padlock image. You can find it in the browser bar. It means the link to the site is secure.
A secure site will also have https:// at the start of its address.
But please note, these do not mean a site is genuine. So make sure you're happy with a site before you log on, fill in any details or pay.
Never enter your bank PIN or password on a site or in an email.
If an item is large and expensive, like a car, don’t pay for it until a seller hands it over.
Fraudsters may invite you to look at an item then ask you to pay before you can pick it up. Once they have your money, they'll disappear.
If you have to meet a seller in person, try to take a friend with you. It’s safer that way, especially if you have to pay by cash.
To stay safe online, you should make sure that all your devices:
- Use an anti-virus - Install it and keep it up-to-date. Try to scan for viruses at least once a week and follow the advice. It should tell you when a site is unsafe to visit, or a file is unsafe to open.
- Use a firewall - Keep it on at all times. A device won’t be as secure if you turn it off.
- Keep up to date - Make sure you update your devices operating system, internet browser and software as soon as updates are available. This will help to protect them from the latest scams.
- Read all the details - Before you buy, read all the details about an item. Does it match what it says in the title and picture?
- Be careful of free trials - If you agree to a free trial, check to make sure that you don't have to pay for it later on. Look for the terms that may be hidden in the small print.
- Check the small print - Terms and conditions can be found in the small print. They should tell you about any hidden costs, as well as delivery and returns information.
- Know where you're buying from - Check the location of a seller, especially if they're not well-known. It's easier to complain and get your money back from sellers that are based in the UK and EU.
- Search for FAQs - Most online shops have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page. This can help you quickly find key information.
- Keep track of what you buy - Check your bank account often to make sure you know what all your payments are for.