Only buy from trusted companies, and try to trust your instincts - if something doesn’t feel right about a website, you should probably avoid using it. You should also check for an address and telephone number in the ‘About us’ or ‘Contact us’ section of the site and give them a ring if you’re unsure.
When using an auction site such as eBay, always check the seller feedback, and it may be worthwhile sending them an email just to make sure they are genuine.
When entering any sensitive information, such as credit card details, always make sure that the site address begins with ‘https’, and that there is a padlock symbol either in the address bar or the bottom right of the browser window - this denotes that the site is secure.
It’s also a good idea to use a credit card when making online purchases, as they come with more protection than a debit card. If you use a credit card to pay for goods or services that cost between £100 and £60,260 then the card issuer is jointly liable with the trader should the goods arrive faulty, or not arrive at all.
You could also use a prepaid card for online shopping, loaded with just enough cash to cover each purchase. That way, if a fraudster does get a hold of your details, there will be no money available for their sinister shopping spree.
Some fraudsters will bombard your inbox with junk mail in an attempt to get sensitive information from you. So it’s best to not open any suspicious looking emails and certainly don’t click on any links that are within them, as they could contain viruses or trojan horses to steal information directly from your computer.
These phishing scams have moved on a lot since the days of the Nigerian lottery win, and emails are now very official looking and will contain company logos, so be aware that any genuine companies would not ask for sensitive data in this way and disregard any correspondences that do.
If you regularly use the internet then it’s vital that you keep your anti-virus software up to date to defend against key-loggers, Trojan horses, viruses, worms or any other nasties that might want to infect your system.
Anti-virus software is by no means completely failsafe, but if you are hacked and your details used then your bank will be more receptive to any claims if you can show them you had done everything possible to stay safe online.