On the one hand, the internet is a place of awe and wonder. Where else can you research obscure facts, find love and uncover bargains, all without leaving the comfort of your armchair?
On the other hand, it can be a place where, unless you know what you are doing, you can very easily lose a great deal of money to unscrupulous fraudsters and scammers.
If you are planning on doing your shopping over the internet this Christmas, Your Money is quite keen that you should stay safe while you’re doing so. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you avoid being taken for a ride.
Before you start shopping, make sure your security is up to scratch. This is generally sound advice for whenever you are online, so be certain that all your firewalls are set at appropriate levels and that you have a good anti-virus software installed.
When you begin, make sure your brain is engaged. Whilst we’ll come on to some of the more technical elements of internet safety later, common sense is a vital tool in keeping out of harms way.
As an example, if you see an item that normally retails at £200 going for £20, chances are the seller might not have your best interests at heart. True, it might be an amazing bargain, but it might be someone trying to rip you off. So be sensible.
There are other, equally simple rules you can follow to keep yourself safe.
Firstly, always make sure you’ve entered the address correctly. Some scam websites work on the principle that customers might get the spelling slightly wrong. If you do, you could end up on a site that will take your money for nothing.
Some of these sites are brilliantly constructed and look just like the real thing, so be careful.
Some sites, however, are not quite so well constructed. If you come across one that is offering bargains but is riddled with spelling mistakes and errors, the best advice is to get out of it as quickly as possible.
There are other tell tale signs as well. If a site only has a PO Box number as its contact details, be careful. Ideally it should show a street address and a phone number. If you’re in any doubt, call the company or do some more research on them before committing to buy.
Once you’ve made your selection and you move to the paying part of the site, have another look at the page. The address should have changed from ‘http’ to ‘https’. You may well also find a close padlock symbol in the bottom right hand corner. These are both good indications that the site is secure and safe to use. If the padlock is open, however, you should assume it is not a secure site.
Where possible, always use a credit card. Particularly if you’re buying a product that costs more than £100, it will give you extra levels of protection. Visa and Mastercard also offer you the opportunity to register your card when you go online. This too gives an extra level of security.
And consider only using sites that come with an Internet Shopping Is Safe (ISIS) logo.
Always keep a record of all your online transactions. These could include receipts and order confirmations. That way, if something does go wrong you’ll have at least some level of proof to back up your claims.