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Top Tips On How To Avoid Scams When Buying Online.

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Top tips on how yopu can avoid scams when purchasing goods & services online.

With deal events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Days, and more being so established, more and more of us are used to looking for and expecting to find great deals and bargains online, which is good news for scammers and the reason why online fraud is on the rise.

It's never been more important that you take precautions to ensure that the retailer you are shopping with is bonafide and that what seems like a not-to-miss offer is actually what it's advertised to be! I spend hours trawling through offers and deals, many of which I advertise on the blog and my social network channels, and sometimes, it can be hard to spot a genuine bargain from something more sinister.

In the last year alone, a 32% increase in purchase scams has been reported in the UK. With more and more shoppers preferring to complete purchases from the comfort of their own homes, online scammers are finding it easier than ever to scam people out of their hard-earned cash with fake products, no products at all or products that are incorrectly advertised.

With this in mind, has provided The Penny Pincher readers with 10 tips on how to avoid online purchase scams and what to do if you fall victim to one. 


How to identify and avoid purchase scams

  1. Use safe and reputable websites: Stick to well-known/official sites and trusted e-commerce platforms. You should always look for secure URLs (The web browser will show the web address starting with https://) when entering your payment information, and read customer reviews before entering any information into an unfamiliar website. Fake websites do exist, trying to cash in on potential buyers doing some online shopping, and it can be hard to spot a legitimate retailer from fraudulent websites. I almost fell for a good deal scam recently. It was only after stopping and researching the website, did I find out I was likely to be spending a lot of money (a wedding ring), on a site that had stolen photos and product descriptions from a legitimate retailer and was sending out fake or worse still, no ring at all! It was a lucky escape! 

  2. Research the seller: If you're buying from a third-party seller or a smaller website, research the seller thoroughly. Check for good reviews, ratings, and any red flags in customer feedback. Always check reviews on third-party sites rather than on the site itself. Trustpilot is an excellent, impartial review site. 

  3. Look for secure payment options: Use payment methods that offer buyer protection, such as credit cards from major credit card providers (Using a Debit card doesn't offer the same level of protection, so try and use a credit card to pay if you can) or reputable and secure payment methods like PayPal, Apple Pay or Stripe when making online purchases. Avoid sites that ask you to pay via a bank transfer or sending money orders. Also, don't give out more personal information than you should need to give to be able to make an online purchase. Certainly, don't give out personal details or sensitive information during an unsolicited call or unexpected email from the 'retailer', especially not bank details! Suspicious emails should simply be deleted. Cybercriminals can use your information to help them commit identity theft using your personal data and financial information.

  4. Check for contact information: Ensure the website provides clear contact information, including a phone number and the company’s address. You can further check the business’s information on the Companies House register for UK websites. Be wary if this information is missing or hard to find. Also, look for the company's social media accounts; it is unusual for an online seller not to be actively posting on its own social media channels and be wary of a social media site that doesn't allow people to post comments!  Also, check the email address. Most bonafide sellers will have an email address that is linked to the company's website address/domain name, such as, rather than 'disposable' emails, such as gadgetsrus@gmailcom.

  5. Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals: If the price of an item is significantly lower than that of other online retailers, it could be a scam. Compare prices and be cautious of unrealistic discounts - especially for big-ticket items, silly prices can be tell-tale signs that the deal is too good to be genuine!

  6. Read the fine print: Before entering any information into a site, review its return policy, terms of service, and privacy policy. Ensure you understand the conditions before making a purchase, as you don’t want to be stuck with an item you can’t return.

  7. Use strong, unique passwords: Protect your online accounts with strong, unique passwords. Avoid using the same password across multiple sites. An easy way to do this is to use a password-generating and storage service such as Google Passwords to generate and keep track of passwords.

  8. Monitor your bank accounts: Regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorised transactions. Your bank may also allow you to set up alerts to notify you of suspicious activity.

  9. Enable two-factor authentication: If available, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an added layer of security on your accounts.

  10. Keep your device’s software up to date: Ensure your computer, browser, and antivirus software are updated regularly to protect against malware and phishing attacks.


What to do if you fall victim to a scam

  1. Contact the seller: First, you should try to resolve the issue directly with the seller. Provide evidence of the transaction and any communication you’ve had, as this may be useful later if you need to take further action.

  2. Report the scam to your payment provider: If you used a credit card or payment service like PayPal, report the fraudulent transaction immediately. They may be able to reverse the charge or help you recover your money.

  3. File a legal complaint and notify your bank: Report the scam to your local consumer protection agency or a relevant government body, such as via the Action Fraud website. If you provided banking details, inform your bank to monitor for suspicious activity and potentially freeze your account. Keep records of all communications, transactions, and steps you’ve taken. This documentation can be helpful if you need to pursue legal action.

  4. Change your passwords: If you created an account on the scam website, change your passwords for any other accounts that use the same or similar passwords.

  5. Seek legal advice: If the amount of money lost is significant, consider seeking legal advice to explore your options for recovering the funds.



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