How to shop safely online

A record number of people are expected to shop online in the run up to Christmas, but how do you ensure it's safe?

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Whether you use it for social websites, education & entertainment or shopping, the internet has you covered - but just like in real life, there can be risk...

Make sure you're protected

Before you begin, ensure your computer is protected with firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

Also, make sure this protection is kept up-to-date.

You can download free anti-virus software, but the products you pay for tend to offer more comprehensive protection.

In your browser options, apply the highest level of security you are comfortable with.

I’m just browsing, thanks

So we’re protected, and online. How do you know which site is safe, and which isn’t?

If you’re making a payment online, check the website is secure. Look for a locked padlock symbol in the browser, not the web page, and make sure the website address begins HTTPS.

Don’t trust padlocks that only appear on the page itself – they’re easy symbols for fraudsters and not a sign of security.

Money, money, money

You get extra protection if you pay with a credit, rather than a debit card.

Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card company is jointly liable with the retailer for purchases valued between £100 and £60,260. The level of protection increased from £30,000 when the Consumer Credit Directive took effect in February 2011.

This means if you buy something over the internet that doesn’t turn up, or arrives faulty or damaged, you can pursue the credit card provider for a refund if the retailer refuses to give one or has gone bust.

Afterwards, print out a copy of the order confirmation, and check your statements carefully to be certain the payment has gone through correctly. 

Low-tech tips

Simple tactics are a good place to start.

Only buy from sellers you trust. If you don’t know the brand, look for contact details and customer reviews by using forums or search engines.

Create a number of passwords! While it can be tempting to use just one password for everything, try to mix letters, numbers and symbols. If you want to be a web ninja, use a different password for every website you use.

It's best to keep a paper copy of your online transactions by printing off details but don't leave a trail on your computer. Especially don't leave passwords or card details on the computer.

You’re calling from where?

If you receive an email asking you for account numbers or personal details, it’s best not to trust them, even if they look convincing. It’s likely to be a phishing scam, so phone your bank or merchant and check.

And don’t forget – sometimes the online fraudsters do it the old fashioned way.

If someone phones you and claims they are from Microsoft or Apple, and they’ve detected a problem, they are always lying! Either hang-up or have some fun stringing them along – but never give them your hard earned cash.

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