Consumers should take added precautions when shopping online


With Christmas fast approaching Trading Standards is warning consumers to take added precautions when shopping online.

As huge numbers of bargain-hunters prepare to log on for Black Friday this week and Cyber Monday in the hope of bagging a bargain for a festive gift, the team are highlighting the growing trend for criminals to use social media to target potential victims with apparently attractive deals.

It’s important to make sure that we do all we can to stay safe

According to the most recent figures the amount spent with UK online retail sites last year was almost £1.4bn. Reports also showed that Cyber Monday actually surpassed Black Friday, with over £3 billion being spent by UK shoppers.

Overall the results revealed the biggest ever day for both online and offline spending.

“It’s important to make sure that we do all we can to stay safe to ensure that we don’t get scammed at what is probably the most expensive time of year for most of us,” said Councillor Tig Outlaw, Cabinet member for public protection.

“It’s also the most lucrative time for fraudsters to take advantage of the public so let’s make sure the criminals are left short changed this year by following the advice from our Trading Standards team.”

Online Shopping Tips

  • Conduct research: When using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, posts and texts are often how cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices.
  • Personal information is like money: value it and protect it: When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Use safe payment options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered.
  • Don’t be disappointed: Read return policies and other website information so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
  • Protect your ££: When shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with https:// the s stands for Secure, there should also be a padlock in the address bar.

Basic Safety and Security Tips

  • Keep a clean machine: Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
  • Make your password a sentence: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “I love country music.”). On many sites, you can even use spaces.
  • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords.

For up to date advice on staying safe online visit the Get Safe Online website at www.getsafeonline.org

Reporting a Scam

  • For advice on scams call – Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline: 03454 04 05 06
  • To report a scam call – Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040

For more information on scams visit www.iwasp.org