Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more consumers have been shopping online, often on a tighter budget.
It can be tempting to click on a social media advert or unfamiliar website offering deals on big brands or in-demand items. However, more people have also fallen victim to online scammers who set up fake websites or stores on online marketplaces in an attempt to steal their personal and financial details.
We want to help consumers recognise and avoid online shopping scams while supporting legitimate businesses.
Top Tips for Shopping Safely Online
Pay by credit card or a secure online payment system for stronger protection.
Be suspicious if a seller will only accept payment via bank transfer.
Check independent reviews of the seller/store on official websites rather than relying on reviews hosted on the website itself.
Make sure you have contact information for the seller in case something goes wrong.
The website should list a valid return address and contact details – be suspicious if a UK website has a returns address overseas and check that the address is listed with Companies House.
During the summer, two Scottish consumers purchased hot tubs from an unfamiliar website which were never delivered. They discovered that the official address listed on the website actually belonged to an empty shop.
Check the site’s return policy and terms and conditions
Your consumer rights are generally the same whether you’re shopping on the high street or online. When shopping online, you also have the right to a 14-day cooling off period for most purchases.
Look out for spelling or grammatical mistakes and poor-quality images
These could mean that a website is a scam.
Check the web address carefully if you have clicked on a social media advert for a brand’s online store.
Earlier this year, Facebook took down scam adverts for Clarks shoes which used addresses such as clarkseushop.com rather than the genuine .co.uk address. If in doubt, check the brand’s official social media channels.
If you see your favourite brand at a discount price online, check that the seller has been authorised by the official brand and is listed on their website
Be Cyber Aware.
The National Cyber Security Centre advise that you make sure that your virus protection is up to date and that you use strong passwords.
If you’re buying pre-owned items through online marketplaces such as Depop, remember that you don’t have the same protection as you do with retailers. Online marketplaces aren’t responsible for checking that products being sold through their site aren’t counterfeit or dangerous.
Check seller reviews before buying and use secure online payment systems or credit cards so that you have more protection if something goes wrong and to prevent scammers from obtaining your payment details.
Always check the site’s terms and conditions and advice section to find out what to do if items are faulty or not delivered.
Consumer body Which? recently found counterfeit phones,headphones and earbuds for sale on online marketplaces at a fraction of the normal price. They were all made with poor quality materials and were potentially dangerous. If a bargain looks too good to be true it probably is. Find out more here
When shopping online, offers of ‘free delivery’ can be restricted to certain areas of the UK, with additional charges being applied at the checkout for those living in rural or remote areas.
You can report instances of unfair delivery charges to Advice Direct Scotland using their online form .
The Scottish Government also have an online delivery pricing map to help you find the best deal: just enter your postcode to find out how much delivery companies charge to ship to your address.
If something does goes wrong with a purchase you’ve made online, there is advice and support available to you. If the product is faulty, doesn’t match the description on the website or if there are issues with delivery, seek advice from Advice Direct Scotland. If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.