We all know that there are massive savings to be enjoyed by shopping online this Christmas, particularly if we use gift voucher codes. However, a new report has suggested that consumers are losing as much as £6.6billion every year due to rogue trading as the consumer protection system fails to keep pace with the digital revolution.
According to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, online shoppers are at risk due to email scams and fraud. In particular, the report points to mass market scams such as bogus lotteries, counterfeiting and unscrupulous traders. With trading standards officers reporting that they are working on a “budget knife-edge”, the pressure is on customers to take control of their own fates and take all the steps they can to avoid falling into online scammers’ traps this festive season.
Tips to shop securely
The first step if you’re shopping online should be to ensure you’re using a safe website. There are vetting schemes you can use such as Shopsafe.co.uk; and you can look for the Internet Shopping Is Safe (ISIS) logo from IMRG, which vets more than 1,000 accredited retailers. They shouldn’t be too hard to find as ISIS-accredited retailers now account for around two thirds of all UK online shopping.
Once you have found a site you’re going to use, you’ll usually be asked to sign up – which will mean creating a username (usually your email address) and a password. Just as you would normally have more than one key to your home, make sure you use different passwords in different places. Also, you must ensure that you never use the same password for an online shopping store as you would use for your email account. Try to pick passwords that are more difficult for hackers to crack – such as by using numerical symbols instead of letters.
When you come to make a payment, look for the padlock symbol in the browser and make sure the address starts with “https”.
Play your cards right
Consider using a prepaid card for your online purchases – with a prepaid card you can load money on to the card as and when you wish to use it. This means that even if a hacker were to gather your details, they will be limited to the funds they have access to. If you don’t want to use a prepaid card, then a credit card is preferable to a debit card because it’s not linked to your bank account and there is additional consumer protection in case a retailer goes bust.
Another option is to sign up for the extra pin/password security options from Mastercard Secure Code and Verified by Visa. Once you sign up for this additional protection the card cannot be used at one of the 12,000 online retailers without using the additional password.