8 tips to help you stay safe while Christmas shopping online

‘Tis the season for festive spending. To beat the queues, many of us will buy presents online – but can we beat the cyber-scammers too?

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Nearly a third (31%) of online shoppers admit they’re tempted to put themselves at risk  during the rush to bag a Christmas bargain, according to research by Financial Fraud Action UK.

Scammers and tricksters are lying in wait to grab some goodies at your expense. Follow our tips to stay safe while shopping online.

1. Double check the website’s URL

Fraudsters will create spoof versions of real websites where the address has been slightly changed to try to fool you. Many fake sites will use a site name  that refers to a famous brand that’s likely to be popular over Christmas, but it won't be an official site.

Be wary of website addresses  that end in .net or .org as these aren’t usually used for online shops.

2. Look for ‘https’ in the website address

Before you enter your debit or credit card details, make sure the payment page is secure by checking that the address starts with ‘https’. The ‘s’ stands for secure. There should also be a padlock or unbroken key symbol in the browser window.

3. Stick to reputable retailers

At Christmas, you’re more likely to visit websites you wouldn’t normally use. Perhaps you’re looking for a particular present for a relative that you can’t find on websites you’re familiar with. But never put your credit card details into sites you don’t trust.

You should be wary of sites whose ‘contact us’ page only offers a form to fill out without a genuine address or phone number, while websites which sell products but don’t have a returns policy clearly detailed should also be treated with caution.

4. Regularly install security software updates

You should do this anyway, but it’s especially important if you’re going to be doing a lot of online shopping in the run-up to Christmas. Remember to keep your smartphone and tablet protected as well as your laptop.

Make sure you’re using the latest updated version of your internet browser to avoid malware sneaking in.

5. Watch out for suspicious messages

Attempts to ‘fish’ for victims spike during the Christmas period. Fake emails supposedly sent by online retailers or shipping companies could actually be attempts to steal your credit card or login details.

Never click on links or attachments within these emails as they might take you to a fake website. Type in the company’s website directly instead.

6. Always log out after completing a purchase

If you’ve logged into a website to buy a Christmas present, always log out once you’ve finished your shopping session. Simply closing the window doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve logged out, so a cyber-criminal could gain access to your account and any details like your address or bank details that are stored there.  

7. Check your bank statement

Amid such a busy shopping period, it’s a good idea to regularly check your online bank statement so you can keep a close eye on what’s going out of your account. Contact your bank immediately if you spot any suspicious transactions.

8. Stop and think

Remember – if a festive bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is.