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According to a recent survey, 99% of us have shopped online in the past six months and frequently given away sensitive information when purchasing goods and services. Unfortunately, along with this growth in e-commerce, purchase scams are also rising at an alarming rate.

If you are a business currently or looking to start operating online, you can find business-specific security guidance here.

How to Shop Safely Online 

  • Choose where you shop carefully: it’s worth spending some time researching where you are planning on buying something from:
    • Read feedback and reviews from real customers and organisations who you trust.
    • Reputable online shopping places will have a Privacy Policy on their website detailing how they store and process your data.
    • Be wary of sellers or websites that are relatively new, have inherently negative or only a few reviews, or if the price of an item seems too good to be true.
  • Use a credit card for online payments: most major credit card providers protect online purchases. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act obligates credit card providers to give you a refund under certain circumstances, including if the company fail to supply the goods or services, or if the company has misrepresented what it is supplying.
  • Consider using a payment platform, such as PayPal, Google Pay or Apple Pay, as these platforms authorise the payment, meaning that the seller or website does not see your payment details.
  • Don’t give away too much of your information: When shopping online, you needn’t provide more information simply because you are being asked for it. The minimum data needed to process your order is often only your name, delivery address, and payment details.
  • Use guest checkouts wherever possible: While it might be easier to create a new account on a shopping website and then log into quickly to make a purchase, this puts your personal data at risk because of the possibility of data breaches. It is safer to checkout as a Guest. And you can usually complete a purchase by using an online payment platform or by signing into an existing account with a service provider, like Google or Apple.
  • Watch out for suspicious emails: Phishing emails frequently target people by impersonating popular retailers using a fake website:
    • stealing your details or taking a payment from you for an item or service that does not exist.
    • Discount codes might be sent to you and may be genuine but never trust a link or code sent to you by email or from a retailer that you’ve never used or have not visit recently. You can forward any suspicious emails to us at
  • Social media marketplaces are not regulated: While you might be able to get some good local deals on Facebook marketplace, the service is not regulated.
    • There is no easy way to verify the seller is genuine or that the item is even real. Sellers on social media are not verified, so you should try and avoid these pages as much as possible. Never send any money before you have seen the item in person, and always pay through a secure payment service provider. If in doubt, buy the item off of a reputable website and not on social media.

What do I do if things go wrong?

  • Phone your bank: If you have lost money, contact your bank immediately. The bank should be able to cancel your card and protect your account, if appropriate, e.g. if your details may have been compromised. 
  • Report to the Cyber Security Centre and the Police: you can report a fake Seller, website, or payment fraud to us using our Cyber Concern Online Reporting Form. The form allows you to share the report with the Police.
  • You’re unlikely to get your money back: Unfortunately, if you have fallen victim to a purchase scam and made a payment, it is often too late for the payment to be reversed. If you had authorised the payment, your bank might not offer a refund. 
  • Report fake sellers or webpages to the website host: While you may not be able to get the item you purchased, you can help stop others falling victim to the same scam. The website host can investigate and decide whether to disable the account or listing. If you’re unsure how to do this, please get in touch us. 



This page was last reviewed on 21/05/2024