How to shop safely online

Shopping safely online: what you need to know in 2019

Needless to say, online shopping is an absolute gamechanger.

From a new seasonal wardrobe to that nifty new gadget for the kitchen, it’s all just a click away. However, it always helps to be aware of the drawbacks of online shopping. Here are the latest things you need to look out for (and do) in order to shop safely.

Fake websites

Picture the scene: you're browsing the web, looking for the best price on a particular product, and you find one that seems too good to be true.

This could be because you’ve stumbled upon a fake or “scam” website, which has been convincingly designed and coded to look legitimate.

However, you can avoid getting caught out by:

  • Reading online reviews of the website to check whether it’s genuine (and provides a reliable service)
  • Checking the “Contact us” page to see whether there is a registered company address or a phone number/contact email. If you can’t find this info, tread with caution
  • Looking for the green padlock next to the site’s URL; this can indicate it’s trustworthy; however, you should always carry out other checks, just in case has a comprehensive guide here.

Phishing emails

If you’ve been shopping online, then you receive an email from that company saying you’re entitled to a refund, or your account needs to be updated, it could be a fake email.

This scam, commonly known as “phishing”, encourages you to click on a link which takes you to a fake website which collects your information.

Look out for the signs by:

  • Checking out the email address it was sent from – a common indicator of a fake is if it contains a brand name along with random numbers and letters
  • Being doubly suspicious of any email that asks you to enter bank details
  • Checking whether you actually have an account with the company the email is claiming to be from and, if you do, whether the details match up?

The Money Advice Service has more information here.


Very similar to phishing, "smishing" is where you receive a fraudulent message over text message. The concept is the same, in that it involves clicking a link that encourages you to enter personal information and passwords, however, people are more likely to trust a communication they receive via text.

Always retain a healthy amount of suspicion of any texts you’re not expecting, especially if they claim to be from your bank or are asking you to provide information.

Apple ID scam

A recent scam involves a screen popping up in one of your iPhone apps which looks exactly like the usual Apple ID login screen.

The effectiveness of this scam comes from the fact that this page pops up often throughout the operating system.

But don’t worry, a good way to check if a login page is genuine is to try to navigate back to your home screen. If the page disappears, it’s likely to be fake, whereas if it stays up, it may be legitimate.

"Deals" on fake social media pages

When you’re doing your online shopping, it’s definitely a good idea to look high and low for deals and discount codes before you click "buy".

However, some can trick shoppers with fake deals and coupons, often circulated through social media.
All it takes is to create a coupon with an appealing-looking deal and to seed it out through social media. It will naturally gain traction, with users sharing it, making it difficult to trace back.

The idea is to get people’s details so they can send unsolicited marketing communications, including text messages that charge a fee. Some even request a payment up front to access or activate the deal.

It’s always a good idea to visit the verified social media page of the brand in question and look for any trace of the voucher, or a statement about whether or not it’s real.

Bitcoin scams

The fact that cryptocurrencies are lightly regulated, as well as potentially confusing for new users, means they’re a perfect target for fraudsters.

Common cryptocurrency scams involve promotional offers that encourage users to create accounts in fake wallets, even to the extent of offering “bonuses” to those who deposit larger amounts.

There are also fake wallet apps, some of which have made it into legitimate app stores, which can steal important account details.

As always, it definitely pays to do some research.

The above can make shopping online seem like a daunting prospect, so it’s reassuring to know all the steps we take to safeguard you and your finances. Find out all the ways we protect your security here.

Published: 29 November 2018