Online retail spend is predicted to reach £60 billion in the UK this year, according to an analysis by the Centre for Retail Research – with such a massive spend now taking place online, it’s important to make sure your purchasing habits are as safe as possible.
There are risks associated with online shopping , so customers need to be careful with what they are buying and from whom, as well as how purchases are paid for.
Here are 10 top tips to help you shop safely online – and a handy infographic too.
1. Reputable Sites
If you would like to buy an item from a company you haven’t heard of before then do a little research first: research the site online and find reviews from other internet users. You can also get a site rating from some internet security sites.
If the site is offering items that seem too good to be true, it could indicate that the site is selling illegal or pirated items.
2. Use a credit card where possible
If you buy something online that's worth more than £100, it's recommended to use a credit card rather than a debit card. This is because if you spend more than £100 on your credit card, you have legal rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
You may find that paying by credit card costs a little more than using your debit card (e.g. there might be charges applied for using a credit card), so you need to weigh up whether it’s worth paying extra for the protection the credit card may offer you on your purchase.
3. Avoid entering payment details on a public Wi-Fi connection
Many cafés, hotels and airports offer free Wi-Fi – which is great for surfing the web. However, you cannot guarantee that the network is secure. This applies even if you have been given a password to use, so it’s best to avoid making financial transactions and entering passwords, credit card numbers or other financial information on a public network.
4. Check the payment page is secure
Before you enter your personal or card details, check that the site is secure. To do this, you need to look for the padlock symbol in the browser window frame. Also, when you enter a payment page, the web address should begin with ‘https://’ – the ‘s’ here stands for ‘secure’.
5. Pick strong passwords
According to Ofcom, more than half of adult internet users still admit to using the same password for many different sites. It’s clearly tempting to go for a few easy-to-remember passwords, such as family member’s birthdays, your mother’s maiden name or your favourite sports team. However, the harder the password, the more secure your account will be. To keep passwords as strong as possible it is suggested that you:
- Pick a password that is not traceable to you at all, e.g. your friend’s maiden name
- Swap letters with special characters and use a mixture of lower case and capital letters
- Avoid ascending or descending numerical sequences, duplicated numbers or easily recognisable keypad sequences.
6. Keep your PC or Mac protected
Run up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer to keep your PC or Mac free from malware and other infections.
7. Keep an eye on your bank account
Regularly check your bank statements - this will ensure that you pick up on signs of fraud early. Often criminals will make a small withdrawal or purchase in the first instance, and if it works then they will go on to make larger withdrawals. If you spot it early, you could stop any fraud in its tracks.
8. Don’t enter your pin
When you make a card transaction online, you should never be asked for your PIN or online banking password. Your PIN should only be used in person at cash machines and payment terminals.
You will, however, be asked for the 3 or 4 digit security number ('CVV2 code'), which is usually found on the back of your card. This code is ok to enter.
9. Know your rights
Under 'distance selling regulations', you may be entitled to a full refund for certain goods if you decide within seven days of receiving your item(s). In some cases, you may be entitled to a refund from the seller if your item doesn’t arrive within a reasonable time (normally 30 days).
10. Paying via Bank Transfers
Most sites will have a payment method available on their own website – e.g. via debit card, credit card, or PayPal. It’s recommended to avoid paying for goods via direct bank transfer unless you know the person well or you can confirm that the company is reputable.
View our handy infographic: