The internet has opened up a whole host of online services, ranging from food shopping to renting movies. In this section you can find advice about online services, and what to look out for to ensure that the website is genuine and secure.
Buying online can be quick, easy and convenient. But make sure the site you’re buying from has the best possible security so you don’t fall victim to credit card fraud.
Use a secure web browser
Your browser should have a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transaction (SET). These security features scramble the purchase information you send over the internet to ensure the security of your transaction.
When making a transaction on a website, look for the padlock or the letter ‘S’ after ‘http’ on the address bar. You may also get a pop-up box informing you that you are entering a secure website.
Use reputable companies
Try to shop on reputable company websites. Read independent reviews and if you are still unsure, go for a known high street shop’s website. Navigate to pages via a reputable search engine and not through links or Pop ups. Check that the URL matches the company that you have searched for.
Making a purchase through an intermediary
If you use an intermediary site such as PayPal when making purchases on online shopping and auction sites such as eBay, they will hold your money and act as a middle man until you receive your product. They will also offer advice and step in should you not receive the items you purchased or if they do not meet the specification.
Auction websites such as eBay and eBid allow users to auction off or buy items from around the world. When selling items over the internet you must ensure that you understand the rules particularly around international buying and selling. Knowing the rules and policies of websites can help you become aware of the potential issues and how to avoid them.
If you don't receive payment for an item, it is best to contact the website. Users on eBay can file an ‘unpaid item case’ using eBay's Resolution Centre. A case is resolved when the buyer pays for the item, or both trading partners decide to cancel or otherwise work out the transaction.
As a rule for buying on online auction sites, make sure you check the seller’s history, location and ratings. Most sites have a rating system where users can leave comments. By checking these before buying, you can get a good idea of how reliable the seller is. For non-auction websites or websites for individual businesses you should try and get a review and see what others are saying about the website.
With regards to the item, always read the description carefully and make sure the item matches the description and look at such things as the condition of the item, usage and faults. Check the postage costs because some sellers will charge more than others and some may offer the product cheaper but have higher postage and packaging.
If you have any questions or are unsure about something, ask. Common questions to ask include "Do you accept returns?" and "How will you deliver the item?" If you've already bid on an item and are having a problem communicating with a seller through email, you can request the seller's contact information.
Learn what you can do to protect yourself before sending payment to your seller.
Contact the seller to arrange payment. If you have a problem communicating with the seller through email, you can request the seller’s contact information (including a phone number).
Most websites will send an email verification of the transaction. Keep these emails as proof of purchase. If you have a transaction problem, try getting in touch with the seller. If you aren't able to work things out, contact the website so they can sort the issue.
Banking online can be a good way to manage your money, but the risks can be very high. Be wary of fake emails asking for your bank details. You will also get emails from banks you don’t use; this can be a good indication that criminals are targeting your email address. Banks will never ask you for your personal information over the phone or email.
See phishing or spoofing on our identity theft page for more about the different types of online fraud.
All websites that hold your personal information require you to create a password, so that they can verify it is you who is accessing the information. If passwords get into the wrong hands or are easy to guess, your personal details will be easily accessible.
Good passwords should:
- Never be shared, written down or observed - including with helpline staff
- Be at least seven characters long
- Be a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numbers and other keyboard characters
- Be changed regularly - every three months is a good guide
- Be changed from the original password given to you by an organisation
- Not be something that can easily be guessed such as your date of birth, name, child’s name, password or the name of the website
- Not be the same on all the websites you use.