How to avoid scams when shopping online
2 MIN READ
Being able to search for what you want, compare prices and buy without leaving your sofa can make shopping a bit less stressful.
But safe shopping online comes with some potential challenges especially during sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Thankfully, there are some simple and straightforward steps you can take to keep you safe from scams.
Here are 12 tips from our cyber security specialists.
1 Watch out for fake websites
Stick to the websites of companies you already know.
Fraudsters sometimes create fake websites in order to steal personal information including your payment details.
‘It’s always best to use trusted websites,’ says Helen Flanagan, Head of Information Security Communications & Awareness at Bank of Ireland.
‘If you haven’t used a website before, do some research first and read some independent reviews about the site before you buy.’
If you know the web address of the company, remember to type it in correctly.
Alternatively, use a well-known search engine such as Google or Bing to search for the company and use their search results.
2 Watch out for deals that look too good to be true
We all like to get a bargain but if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Even during sales like Black Friday when everything seems to be reduced in price.
‘Links to websites through emails, texts or social media can be risky,’ says Helen, ‘so it’s best to just avoid them to be on the safe side, especially if you are inundated with emails promoting special offers.’
3 Look for an https address and a padlock icon
Before you type any of your personal details onto a website page, look up at the top of your screen and check the web address.
Does it start with https?
Can you see a padlock icon?
It is safer to shop on sites with an https address and padlock but that does not mean that every website with them is 100% safe.
‘Take into account the whole look and feel of the website,’ Helen says.
Is there something that doesn’t feel right?
‘Fraudsters can create fake websites that can seem genuine at first look.’
4 Be on the lookout for fake texts
During the sales, fraudsters guess that we will be ordering online then waiting for packages to be delivered.
They may send fake texts (or a series of fake texts) pretending to be from a well-known courier company.
The texts may say that they recently tried to deliver a package to you but couldn’t.
To re-arrange collection or delivery, you are told to click on a link in the text message.
This is all part of the scam.
Don’t click on the link.
If the scammer has guessed right and you really are waiting for a delivery then only contact the courier using their genuine, published, contact details.
Never use the link sent by the scammers.
5 Always check that emails are genuine
During online sales like Black Friday, fraudsters often send fake emails pretending to be from well-known, online, shopping sites.
They typically say that your account has been blocked ‘for security reasons’.
The scammers are simply guessing that you use the online shopping site.
To unblock your account, you are told you have to click on a link in the email.
Don’t click on the link.
If you do, you may be taken to a fake website and asked to type in your personal, financial details.
Alternatively, the link might infect your computer with a virus.
6 Instant messaging scams
Another common tactic of fraudsters is to send out fake messages advertising incredible deals pretending to come from retailers on messaging services like WhatsApp.
They may then encourage you to click on a link so you don’t miss out on a great bargain.
Don’t click on the link.
And don’t agree to share the news of the bargain with your friends.
Scammers may use their details to send the fake message to all their contacts too.
7 Log out after you shop online on shared computers
For safe shopping online, avoid making card payments on laptops, desktops or tablets that you share with other people.
Especially on public computers where your details might be stored, discovered and used by others.
And remember to always log out of websites when you’re finished shopping so that your details are not left for others to find and use.
8 Be WiFi wary
Don’t make card payments on free WiFi available in public places as you cannot be absolutely certain who is providing or monitoring the WiFi network.
‘It’s okay to browse,’ says Helen, ‘but if you want to log on to a shopping site or make an online payment, wait until you’re connected to a secure WiFi network, or use a 3G or 4G connection.’
9 Stop using ‘123456’ or ‘password’ as your password
For years, two of the most popular passwords have been ‘123456’ and ‘password’.
If you are using these passwords or ones like them, you’re making it simpler for hackers to guess your password and get into your account.
And, because people often use the same password across multiple online accounts, hackers might be able to get into ALL your accounts if they guess right once.
So change your passwords.
Make them longer – use a sentence or string three or four random words together.
Don’t use something people know or can guess about you, like your birthday or your pet’s name.
10 Don’t give out your personal details over the phone
During the sales, you might get an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card company.
They may claim that they’ve noticed some odd transactions on your account.
This is part of the scam.
Next, the fraudster on the phone tells you they can stop the transactions.
But first you have to give them your bank account or card details so they can check that you really are the account holder.
Don’t give them your details.
11 Keep up to date with your software updates
Keep installing the software updates for the operating system on your phone, computer and tablet.
Updates are provided for a reason.
Yes, it may take a couple of minutes to download the latest update but it’s worth it to be protected against the latest security threats when you shop online.
12 Use the latest version of anti-virus software
Clicking on it may allow malware to download and infect your device.
Protect against viruses by making sure you always have the latest version of anti-virus software installed.
I think I’ve been scammed – what should I do?
Bank of Ireland customers should contact us, right away, using the details below.
Republic of Ireland
Freephone: 1800 946 764 (personal and business)
Great Britain & Northern Ireland
Freephone: 0800 121 7790 (for 365 credit card customers)
Everywhere outside Republic of Ireland, Great Britain & Northern Ireland
Not Freephone + 353567757007
An Garda Síochána* have a web page explaining what to do if you think you’ve been a victim of cybercrime and want to report it.
The European Consumer Centre Ireland has a web page describing a range of Coronavirus scams*.
Find out more
For a comprehensive guide to the latest tactics used by fraudsters and how you can stay safe when shopping online, please visit Security Zone on the Bank of Ireland website.
*Clicking on this link will bring you to a third party website. Bank of Ireland is not responsible for the content of third party websites.
All efforts were made to ensure that the information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. The content of this article do not constitute financial advice.
Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.