Avoid online fraud

Buying and selling online is just as safe as ordering goods over the phone but you should be aware that people may try to convince you to give them your money and personal details.

Keep your financial details safe

Before you buy

Before you buy anything online, make a note of the address, telephone number and any other contact details of the company or seller that you're buying from. Don't rely only on an email address.

If you're unsure about a company or seller being trustworthy:

  • stick with trusted companies and brands that have a strong reputation
  • or search for reviews online

Always use secure sites

If a site is secure it will have 'https' in the web address.  This shows that the company has been independently checked to make sure they are who they say they are.

A yellow padlock symbol in the browser window shows the payment process is secure.

web browser image

More tips

  • never give your passwords, PIN numbers or bank account numbers  -legitimate companies and banks will never ask you for these details by email or over the phone
  • if out and about and buying online, use data provided by your network provider and not public Wi-Fi as some hotspots may not be secure
  • use credit cards and secure payment services instead of debit cards
  • when transferring money use reliable firms
  • never transfer or receive money for someone else
  • check sites' privacy and returns policy
  • print a copy of your order and any acknowledgement you receive
  • check your bank statement carefully against anything you buy online
  • keep your passwords secure
  • if you're selling products online, don’t send off your product before receiving payment
  • Consumer affairs and issues
  • Be secure online 
  • makeITsecure website

Recognising and dealing with internet fraud

You may be the victim of internet fraud if:

  • there has been unusual activity or regular small amounts of money have been withdrawn from your bank account
  • you bought an item online and it does not arrive
  • you sold something online and you don't receive payment
  • the item you receive doesn't match the original description you were given

If you think you are a victim of fraud:

  • check with the company you dealt with to see if you can resolve the problem
  • if you have a problem with an item bought or sold using an auction site, such as eBay, check to see if they can help
  • if you paid using a credit card and the goods did not arrive, you can ask the credit card company to investigate
  • if you used an online payment service, check if you are covered by a fraud protection scheme on the service website

You have the same rights buying online as over the phone or by mail order. You can find out more from Citizens Advice Bureau or Consumerline:

Schemes to watch out for

The internet provides criminals with an easy way to contact thousands of people at a time. Examples include, emails offering the chance to take part in money making schemes or claiming you are the winner of a prize draw.

You can avoid being a victim of internet fraud by:

  • remembering if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is
  • taking your time making decisions that involve parting with money
  • getting independent financial advice before making investments
  • only doing business with companies that you recognise or know of by recommendation by someone you trust - don't judge a company on how 'professional' their website looks
  • checking a company is genuine by looking them up on Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority websites - if they are they will be registered
  •  finding out whether a firm is genuine by looking them up on the  Financial Services Register - Financial Conduct Authority website
  • getting practical advice on how to protect yourself online Safe internet use - Get Safe Online website

Identity theft

If your personal information is stolen, such as your address, passport number and National Insurance number, criminals can use your identity to set up online accounts, apply for credit cards or apply for benefits in your name without you knowing.

Criminals may try to get your credit card details by sending emails that appear to be from a reputable online organisation like a bank or credit card company. They encourage you to enter your credit card details or password on a fake website.

More useful links

Share this page

Feedback

Would you like to leave feedback about this page? Send us your feedback