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Stay safe when shopping online

Stay safe when shopping online

Today there are countless online shopping opportunities – most of which are legitimate. But with online fraud making up around half of all crime in the UK, it’s important to follow some simple rules to give yourself the best chance of having a secure online shopping experience.

Anelda Knoesen
From the Money team
minute read
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Posted 13 JANUARY 2020

How to stay safe when you shop online

First things first, be sure that the device you’re using to shop online is well protected.

Make sure you:

  • Have anti-malware in place. Anti-malware is any resource that protects computers and systems against viruses, spyware and other harmful programs.
  • Use public Wi-Fi smartly. Don’t log on to sites that need your password – such as your bank, social network or credit card provider.
  • Choose a very strong password that no one will be able to work out or guess for your private Wi-Fi network.
  • If you’re using your mobile, always make sure you lock your phone after using it to shop.

Tips for protecting yourself online

Here are some of Ionut Ionescu's (expert in  data and security at Compare the Market) tips for staying safe and secure online: 

  • Use different passwords for all of your accounts – they should contain a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Only download material from sources you know and trust and do not share your credit card details unless it is necessary. Be vigilant that the padlock symbol can be faked by hackers. 
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi network at home is encrypted with a password that isn’t easy to guess and which you change regularly. Change the default settings on your home internet router or hub, as some of these could facilitate hackers getting access.
  • Ensure that your PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phone have the most up-to-date operating system or apps installed.
  • Pay attention to notifications from your card provider about planned downtime and maintenance windows. Fraudsters could masquerade as IT support technicians ‘just checking a few details’ after or during such upgrades.
  • Install up-to-date security protection software (e.g. anti-virus, firewall, anti-malware, anti-spam, etc) on your computer, tablet and mobile phone.
  • Use shopping websites with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. Look at the site’s URL – it should start with “https://” and will typically have a lock icon displayed somewhere in the browser. 

How can I avoid online scams via your email address?

  • Think twice about clicking on links or opening attachments from sources you don’t know.
  • If you’re in doubt, just hover your mouse over the sender’s email address and the link in question. The details that appear should match the name of the sender. If they don’t, be cautious.
  • If you’re asked to follow a link, go to the site directly rather than clicking on the link.
  • Never respond to emails from unknown sources.

Email fraud and social media

You should always be aware of phishing emails. This is when a direct mail is sent to you by fraudsters who are trying to access your personal information. Often, these emails look similar to those sent by reputable businesses.  Never reply to any email asking for your password or PIN. And don't open any attachments unless you’re completely sure they’ve come from a trustworthy source.  
When it comes to social media, be very careful not to overshare your personal data such as your birthday or home address. Before you post something on social media, pause, and think carefully about whether the information is better left as private.

Using credit checks to help spot identity theft

Reviewing your credit report regularly – at least once a year or more – can help you see if someone has stolen your identity. You should be able to see any products listed that you might not have applied for. And you might spot unusual activity if, say, your credit score dips unexpectedly. To access your credit report, visit Experian, Equifax or TransUnion (formerly Callcredit).

You could be protected by using a credit card online

If you pay for goods or services with a credit card – for something that costs between £100 and £30,000 – your purchase could be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Under this act, your credit card provider has equal responsibility with a seller if anything goes wrong after you’ve bought something.  
Your card provider typically has to refund you if:

  • Your items don’t get to you
  • You buy something faulty or damaged and a refund or replacement isn’t available
  • A firm goes into administration before providing what you’ve paid for.

Remember to read the terms of your credit card provider prior to making a purchase if you’re in any doubt about what might or might not be covered.

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