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Last Year online shopping scams cost UK consumers and businesses over £58m, according to figures from Action Fraud.
Offering convenience, and often good value, online shopping has grown in popularity in recent years, with retailers responding by upgrading their websites to accommodate the rising numbers of armchair shoppers.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals have also upped their game and so it’s essential that you protect yourself online to avoid paying for goods that never arrive or falling foul of identity fraud by entering your details into a fake retailer’s website.
Here CashLady provides three ways to protect yourself from online shopping scams.
The most common online shopping scams
The most typical type of online shopping scam is paying for goods that never arrive by inadvertently purchasing from a fake website or retailer advertising online on a social media platform.
Fake shopping sites on Facebook and Instagram
In recent years there have been increasing reports of online criminals advertising on social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, to tout fake goods or ones that simply will never be sent out to you.
Fake shopping websites
Fake websites are also common and can be hard to spot if they have used a website address similar to the one that you believe you are shopping on, such as Amazon.
If you do find yourself shopping from a fake website, then not only is it likely that you’ll never receive the goods that you paid for, but the scammers may also then use your payment information for fraudulent purposes.
A recent report revealed that products purchased from third-party sellers on five major e-commerce sites, including Amazon, Walmart and eBay could be counterfeit and even potentially harmful to health.
While huge steps have been taken by online retailers to keep counterfeit products from their sites, it highlights that even when shopping on legitimate websites, it’s essential to stay aware to avoid being duped into a scam.
Protecting yourself from online shopping scams
# 1 Research the seller and the goods
Just like you would be wary of buying something from an unknown trader in a pub or dark alley, you should also be wary of purchasing from an unknown online seller.
Online reviews can be helpful but remember that these can be faked so look out for lots of negative reviews along with other signs, like a ridiculously cheap price – if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.
If you’re buying a designer or brand name item and have suspicions that it may be fake then do some research about the product and counterfeit items online – you may find that the designer or other shoppers have written about the seller or specific product and provided tips on how to spot fakes.
Consider whether the seller has provided a working phone number – call and have a quick chat if you’re at all unsure.
If the seller has no or very little online selling history then be especially wary and consider looking elsewhere.
#2 Is the shopping website legitimate and secure?
Pay close attention to the domain name of the website that you’re shopping from.
Fake websites often closely mirror the real deal but by examining the URL you should be able to spot whether you are at the real site. Sometimes the difference is subtle so look closely.
Also check that the website is secure, particularly if you are entering sensitive information, such as your address and payment details.
The most obvious example of this is an SSL certificate, indicated by a clickable green padlock and ‘https,’ at the start of the URL.
#3 Stay on top of your cybersecurity
Practising safe cybersecurity, whatever you’re doing, from sending emails to shopping is the first step to staying safe online.
Keeping your virus protection up to date is crucial, as is understanding the various ways that you can be targeted by criminals online.
Check out Cyber Aware to learn more about virus protection, firewalls and ensuring that your computer system is secure.
This will help mitigate the potential damage caused by online scammers trying to access your data or payment details while you shop for online goods.