Buyers beware of online scams: 5 fraud-busting tips for your online shopping this season
-by Zoey Sky
If you don’t feel like waiting in line for hours just to buy holiday gifts, you’re probably considering doing some online shopping instead. But before you buy anything online, check out this list of five tips to help you avoid online scams.
More than a quarter of online scams in the U.K. happen right before Christmas, and victims lose an estimated £893 ($1,183), which is more than double the average festive budget of buyers. Since British shoppers can spend as much as £400 during the holidays, scammers are eager to catch victims off-guard as they buy all sorts of gifts over the internet. (Related: Fraud-proof your bank accounts with these anti-identity theft hacks.)
According to a survey by Barclays, the government and retailers have their work cut out for them since 38 percent of more than 2,000 people surveyed by the British multinational bank revealed that they do not know how to identify a secure website. This leaves shoppers open to all sorts of scams by fraudulent individuals.
Scammers could be having a merry Christmas this year because they might rake in as much as a whopping £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) all over the U.K. during the holidays. Meanwhile, online retailers could lose at least £72 million ($94 million) in revenues.
Almost 60 percent of shoppers state that they do not feel safe when buying online, especially in the days right before Christmas. Samantha White, who works at Barclays and helps to protect customers from scammers, warned, “While families across the U.K. are preparing to enjoy the festive season, criminals are getting ready to pounce on anyone who lets their guard down.”
Some online shoppers also have online bank accounts, and most of them can be the victim of online scams like fake websites, spam emails linked to offers from made-up sites, identity scammers looking to steal personal and banking information and fraudulent payment services.
Cyber-crime is an ever-increasing problem, and it currently accounts for almost half of all crime in the U.K. At least 3.6 million individual computer fraud incidents were reported in the year to September 2016.
The significant rise in cyber-crime increased the total value of fraud that reached the U.K. courts in 2016 to over £1 billion ($1.3 billion), according to separate data published by KPMG earlier this year.
These tips from Barclays can help make your online shopping experience much safer:
- Before logging in or clicking any button, make sure that the retailer website you’re on has the padlock symbol and “https” in the address bar.
- Be wary of any deals, especially if they seem too good to be true.
- Don’t log in to public Wi-Fi, especially for buying Christmas gifts online.
- Never share your PIN or online banking password. Legitimate websites will never ask for them.
- Monitor your bank balance so that the moment you spot any irregularities you can report fraudulent transactions right away.
More tips for safe online shopping
If you’re still worried about doing your holiday shopping online, keep these tips in mind:
- Shop using familiar websites – Go directly to a trusted site instead of shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged but this won’t be a problem if you know the site well. Watch out for misspellings or sites with a different top-level domain (e.g. .net instead of .com).
- Don’t give anyone your credit card number over email – Online shopping stores don’t need your social security number or your birthday to complete a transaction. But once scammers find out details like this, they can easily steal your identity.
- Check credit card statements – Check your statements online regularly during the holidays, and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Keep an eye out for any fraudulent charges. Notify your bank immediately if you notice anything wrong.
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