There will be no shortage of tempting-looking Boxing Day offers in the shops this Christmas, and many of the retailers will make eye-catching offers online too.
If you want to take advantage of the reductions from the comfort of your own home by shopping online, Hannah Parsons, solicitor at DAS Law, suggests a few questions you should ask yourself to ensure you don’t fall foul of online scammers.
1. Are they well known?
If you’re relatively new to online shopping, you might be best sticking with bigger and more established sites, the same way you might feel more secure buying something in real life from a large retail chain instead of a market stall.
Examples of the former would be large online retailers like Amazon, or the websites of reputable high street retailers like Tesco or John Lewis. You can feel secure in the knowledge that these are established companies who will not try to take advantage of you and can be easily reached if you have a complaint.
However, while these sites do offer a wide range of products, they might not be suitable if you have gone online to find something unique or unusual.
2. Do they keep your details?
Trustworthy online retailers take measures to protect the privacy of their customers; when you’re providing personal details and bank card numbers over the internet, you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
Any credible online shop should have a Privacy Statement available, which tells you exactly how they store and use your personal data and what they’ll do to keep it safe.
Online retailers should also make sure that their checkout pages are secure, to protect your card details from being stolen. This is done with what is known as an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection. If SSL is in place, a small image of a padlock should appear in the address bar of your browser when you go to buy something. You may also notice that the web address begins with ‘https://’ rather than ‘http://’, indicating a secure connection. If you don’t see these things, your personal data may be at risk, even if the site isn’t an outright scam.
3. Does it look professional?
Another giveaway that an online shop might not be legitimate is that it simply doesn’t look very good. If a site contains large amounts of spelling errors or seems to have a lot of poor quality images, it might be something that a scammer has thrown together in a hurry.
Even if it isn’t, it still shows that the person behind it may not be taking their business especially seriously, and might not be particularly concerned about whether their customers are happy with their purchases or not. Either way, this kind of site is best avoided.
4. Can you contact them?
A genuine business should have a registered address and contact details available on their website so you can easily get in touch. Of course, a convincing fake could also have these things, but a site that doesn’t offer any contact details at all should immediately raise suspicions. Even if they are a real business, it could be very difficult to get in touch with them if something does go wrong.
5. What do other people think?
One way to find out if a company is trustworthy is to look for online reviews. Try searching for the company name on Google or another search engine and see what other people have said about it. Of course, there is always the risk that you cannot trust this information either, since it could have been written by anyone, but if you see multiple discussions on forums saying that a company is a scam, or see extremely bad reviews, it’s a safe bet that you shouldn’t buy from them.
6. Is it too good to be true?
Beware of sites that offer deals that seem too good to be true – for example, products sold for significantly less than you’d usually expect to pay. You might be receiving pirated, inferior, possibly used goods, or they may simply take your money and not send you anything, hoping that you will not go to the effort of getting a refund.
Of course, buying online can often mean getting great bargains. but if a site you’ve never heard of is offering a product at a price that no other seller comes close to, this should be enough to set those alarm bells ringing. At the very least, you should do more research before you commit.