In part 2 of Breezit’s ‘Shopping Safely Online’ we continue to look at some of the things you can do to avoid the pitfalls of purchasing online.

You will often be asked to create an account for the online store before you make a payment. You may also be asked if they can save your payment details for a quicker check-out next time you shop with them. Unless you plan to use this seller regularly it would be preferable to continue and make your purchase as a ‘guest’. This avoids your details being stored unnecessarily.

It’s worth checking the return policy before ordering an item. Online retailers are required by the Consumer Contracts Regulations to give you a minimum of 14 days from when you receive most types of items to decide whether you wish to keep it, with a further 14 days to return it for a refund. This is a legal minimum and many retailers have extended these timescales. There are a few exemptions to this rule such as products that can’t be returned for hygiene reasons, personalised goods and certain items that can be easily copied, for example CDs and DVDs.

If possible, always use a credit card when purchasing online. Credit card payments and purchases are covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and most major credit card providers protect online purchases and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances. It also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account will not be affected.

It may be worth considering using an online payment platform, such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay. As these platforms authorise your payments it means that the retailer doesn’t see your payment details. They also provide their own dispute resolution should anything go wrong. However, they may not provide the same protection as a card provider, so check their terms and conditions before your sign up.

When it’s time to pay for your items, make sure there is a ‘closed padlock’ icon in the browser’s address bar. A closed padlock means the site is encrypted, so your activity on it (such as browsing or making payments) can’t be intercepted. This doesn’t guarantee that the retailer is either legitimate or reputable but simply that the connection itself is secure. If the padlock icon is not there, or the browser says not secure, then don’t use the site, enter any personal or payment details or create an account.

Unfortunately, scammers can forge or buy these padlocks so seeing one doesn’t always mean a website is safe. Checking for a padlock should always be combined with making other checks.

At the point of payment purchasers are often directed to a payment site such as Worldpay, Stripe, Shopify, PayPal etc. Check the browser window to ensure that you have really been redirected to the genuine website rather than a ‘spoof’ page on the scammer’s own website where they can collect your card details.

If you think your credit or debit card has been used by someone else, let your bank know straight away so they can block anyone using it. Always contact your bank using the official website or phone number.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Read Part One of this feature here.

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