Shop online safely

You can buy lots of things on the internet. But you should look out for fake adverts on social media or trading websites.

Buying from people online

What to look out for:

  • Bad reviews - Lots of good reviews from different buyers are better than mixed, bad or no reviews at all.
  • Amazing deals - If prices on a site are a lot lower than other sellers, it could be a scam.
  • Requests for advance payments - If an item is large and expensive, like a car, fraudsters may invite you to view then ask you to pay before you can pick it up. Once they have your money they'll disappear. Don’t pay until they hand the item over to you.
  • Odd ways of paying - A fake site may ask you to pay by direct bank or wire transfer. These are hard to trace. If things go wrong, you may not get your money back.

What you can do:

  • Take your time - Make sure an offer is genuine before you choose to buy.
  • Ask the seller questions - If a seller can't tell you any details about the goods or tries to hurry you into paying, do not buy from them.
  • Choose a safe way to pay - When you pay on a site, use a normal method, like your debit or credit card. Be careful if you pay another way.
  • Don’t pay upfront - If an item is large and expensive, like a car, do not pay for it until the seller hands it over.
  • Take a friend to the sale - Don't go alone if you’re meeting the seller in person and handing over cash.

Next topic: Holiday scams

Previous topic: Buying from online shops

Think you've been a victim of fraud?

You should contact us right away if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud. We can then guide you on what to do next.

Buyer Beware

  • Read all the details - Read all the details about what you’re buying before you pay for it. Does the description match the title and picture?
  • Be careful of free trials - If you agree to a free trial, check to make sure that you don't have to pay for it later on. Look for the terms that may be hidden in the small print.
  • Check the small print - Terms and conditions can be found in the small print. They should tell you about any hidden costs, as well as delivery and returns info.
  • Know where you're buying from - Check the location of the seller you're buying from, especially if they're not well-known. It's easier to complain and get your money back from companies that are based in the UK and EU.
  • Search for FAQs - Most online shops have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page. This can help you quickly find key info.
  • Keep track of what you buy - Check your bank account often to make sure there are no unknown payments.

Unknown payments and disputes with a seller

If you don't get what you thought you were buying, it may not be fraud. The same can be said if you see a payment on your statement that you don’t recognise. Learn more about checking payments and seller disputes here: