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You are currently viewing Top tips to avoid being an online shopping scam victim this festive season

It’s the time of year when many of us are busy hunting online to get our shopping done in time for Christmas and find that perfect present for loved ones.

Unfortunately, the run-up to Christmas is also one of the worst times of year for scammers taking advantage of the situation to target consumers.

Recent data published by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which is run by the City of London Police, revealed that British people lost £10.6 million to online scammers between November 2022 and January 2023 – with each victim losing £639 on average.

With budgets squeezed by living costs and shoppers feeling the pressure to find a bargain, scammers may clone websites of genuine retailers, or offer goods which are shoddy or do not exist. 

To help you become a savvy online shopper and avoid being a scam victim in the run-up to Christmas, I have come up with some top tips:

  1. Suspicious links: Pay attention to website links that seem suspicious and avoid clicking on them. Often the legitimacy of the sender can be checked by studying the email address or comparing a phone number to the official number listed for a company. If you cannot find a source on the company website that confirms the contact details, then it’s likely to be fake. 
  1. Browser extensions: During this time of year, there is often a surge in browser extensions that claim to help you save money. While some may be legitimate, there are many that are developed by scammers. The safest way to avoid this is to not install new browser extensions.
  1. Billing scams: Scammers might send you a message claiming to be a company you’ve bought from, telling you that your payment has not gone through and that you need to update your payment information immediately. They will often communicate a sense of urgency, claiming that you will miss out on a deal or your order won’t be delivered if you don’t send your payment details straight away. The best thing to do is to contact the company you have shopped from directly to learn more.
  1. Unfamiliar websites: Shopping online means trying to find the best price possible, but sometimes that price is too good to be true. Fraudsters are notorious for creating fake websites claiming to offer unbelievably affordable prices for products. Their hope is that customers will make purchases from these websites, providing their name, home address, phone number, and payment details, which they can then use to their advantage. To avoid this, always check the legitimacy of the website by searching their name online before making a purchase. 
  1. Check the reviews: Before making a purchase, check the reviews from other customers. Look for reviews on the company’s website as well as on third-party review websites. Be wary of companies that have only a few or no reviews. Reviews that are too short, too vague, or repetitive are suspicious.
  1. Check out as a guest when possible: Most online checkouts will ask you to sign up for an account or allow you to check out as a guest. When you create an account, the website can store your personal and purchase information on the websites’ internal server. While not common, if that company experiences a data breach, then your saved information could be at risk. Checking out as a guest eliminates this possibility because the retailer does not permanently save your information. 
  1. Verification code scams: This scam is used by hackers to get through a two-factor authentication put in place to protect your data. They get in touch with you posing as your bank or a company you’ve recently purchased from, claiming that you need to confirm a verification code to finalise a purchase. These scammers will often already have your password and username but, with the verification, they will be able to access more of your data and potentially hack your customer account altogether. The most important way to protect yourself from this type of scam is to never share a verification code of any kind with others.
  1. Passwords: Avoid reusing passwords for different accounts. Ecommerce sites frequently experience hacks, and if your password is used for more than one account they can use that password to try to open other accounts, too. If remembering unique passwords is challenging, consider using a password manager.
  1. Only use a credit card for online purchases: You may be paid back if you quickly report fraudulent transactions. Avoid using debit cards, bank account details, or other forms of payment that have less fraud protection. Better yet – pay with a gift card, as they are not tied to your personal information or bank account and have a limited amount of funds.

 10. Use automatic alerts to monitor your accounts: Your debit and credit card is most likely equipped with   alert options. Set different alerts so that you are contacted via text message or email once flagged activity   is detected. There are many alerts to choose from, including transaction amounts, location of purchases,   and even the frequency of charges.

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