Protect yourself from online shopping scams

Online shopping is here to stay. It’s convenient and saves time and money as we compare prices from multiple retailers. However, criminals love online shopping too as it gives them the perfect opportunity to hide their identity and target victims. 

Online auction sites are a very popular choice for scammers because their popularity means the volume of potential victims is huge and they can easily pose as sellers of popular items, such as mobile phones, cars and designer goods at bargain prices. 

Clever criminals also set up fake websites which can be hard to distinguish from the real thing. Or use fraudulent (phishing) emails to pose as well-known payment or auction sites to steal your financial details and/or money. 

How to spot an online shopping scam.

•    You are encouraged to transfer money quickly, perhaps you’ll be offered a special discount, or told that other interested buyers could snap it up.

•    You are encouraged to pay via bank transfer, not the secure recommended payment sites.

•    The prices are simply unbelievable. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; the item may not exist, be fake or of inferior quality.

•    The online store is very new and has a lot of positive reviews. It may have limited information about delivery and other policies.

How to prevent an online shopping scam.

•    Do your research. If you’re buying something from a company or person you don’t know and trust, it’s important to know if it is a fair or competitive price for the item you want. 

•    Do make sure you’re buying from a genuine website. There are many fake or copycat websites and their addresses differ from authentic ones by just one or two letters so check the URL. Also check if there is a refund or returns policy; the better online shopping and auction sites have these.

•    Do make sure you’re on a secure site. The web address should begin with ‘https://’; the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’ and there should also be a padlock symbol in the same browser window (not on the page itself). 

•    Don’t believe your eyes. A photo or even a video isn't proof that the item you’re buying exists. It could be a stock image or one that has been used on the internet multiple times. You can check if images appear elsewhere on the internet using various websites. 

•    Don’t rely on positive reviews. Positive feedback from other buyers can give us a sense of security, but if there is lots of favourable feedback that sounds similar, the reviews may be fake.

•    Don’t click on links in emails and texts. Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites, which can steal your money and personal details.

How to report an online shopping scam.

•    Report the scam to Action Fraud, the reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

o    Call 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm

o    Use the Action Fraud online reporting tool 

•    Inform your bank immediately

o    Call us on 0800 408 6407

o    Email us at

•    Contact the Police on 101


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