Shopping for Christmas presents online is much more convenient than trailing round the busy High Street, plus you can get some real bargains. Being the victim of internet fraud or identity theft could really spoil your Christmas though, so follow our hints and tips to shopping safely online.
Make sure you have up-to-date virus software and firewall
This tip applies all year round, but is especially important at Christmas when you’re more likely to be shopping online. Popular anti-virus software includes Norton, McAfee or AVG (which is free!). You should also make sure you have a firewall. Windows XP or Vista users should switch-on the built-in firewall, but you might also want to look at the list of alternatives recommended at the PlusNet Usertools site.
Only shop at secure websites
If you’re sending your payment details online, check for the secure padlock icon first. You should also check that the URL has changed from http: to https: before sending payment details.
Don’t give out your payment details in response to an email
Spammers often send emails that appear to come from banks or building societies, asking you to click on a link to confirm your security details/passwords. Banks will never contact you by email to get any confidential information. If you receive any of these emails you can report them to your bank or to Bank Safe Online.
Keep your cards safe
Once someone’s got your card, it’s fairly easy for them to use it to shop online. Make sure you keep your cards safe at all times, and if you do lose a card, make sure you report it to your bank/credit card company immediately.
Shop at reputable looking stores
If a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is. A few months ago we came across a site based in Indonesia offering Nintendo Wiis for £108 each, as long as you bought a minimum of 5 units. The site disappeared fairly quickly afterwards and left a trail of disgruntled customers without Wiis in forums across the Internet. If you do buy from a site based abroad, it may be more difficult to rectify any problems should anything go wrong.
Check your statements regularly
Make sure you check your bank statements or your internet banking account regularly. Contact your bank immediately if you spot any transactions that you don’t recognise.
Be careful when using shared computers
If you’re using a shared computer you should be extra careful when using Internet banking or shopping online. Not only can you not be sure that it has up-to-date virus software and firewall, but some web browsers will save anything that you type into web forms, including bank details and addresses. Also, if you are banking using a shared computer, make sure you log out when you’re finished.