#NWPChristmas: Online Safety

Be safe online

Christmas is a time where we’re faced with a lot of sales, offers and bargains. But some of them are too good to be true. Cybercrime and scams are a real risk at this time of year so make sure you stay safe online.

Online Shopping

There are lots of top tips for making sure you shop safely online.  Here are ten of the best:

Is the website secure?

Before you put in any card details, check that the payment page starts with 'https' and has a padlock in the address bar:

screenshot of Firefox address bar

Log out when you've finished shopping

Closing the window doesn't always mean you've logged out of the site itself. You could be leaving yourself open to someone infiltrating your account, so always log out once you've finished your transaction.

Online auction sites

If you're buying from an auction site, be sure to use the payment methods offered by the site itself. Don't pay the seller directly, even if they suggest doing so to save on fees.

Transferring money

Authentic sellers will ask you to pay securely by card (or possibly by cheque). Never be tempted to transfer money directly to someone's account, as you may never see the goods or your money again.

Too good to be true?

If you find a bargain that seems too good to be true, it probably is. The item could be a fake, or the site may be a scam. Be suspicious, and walk away if you're not sure the seller is genuine.

Emails - links and attachments

We all get lots of email newsletters and offers into our inboxes. Many are genuine of course, but many are scams which want you to click on a link or provide personal information. Doing this could either infect your device with malware, or enable scammers to steal your identity. If in doubt, delete the email.

Social media scams

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used more and more to circulate scams. If you see a post pushing a free giveaway or a bargain that seems too good to be true, treat it with caution. It might be genuine, but it might be a fraudster.

Phone scams

Scammers will sometimes phone and pretend to confirm an online purchase. When you tell them you didn't make one, they will suggest your card has been compromised and tell you to call your bank. But then they will stay on the line and pretend to be your bank, to trick you into revealing your financial details. Always call your bank from a different phone line, or call a friend/trusted number first to make sure the scammer has been disconnected. Remember - never give your card details or account information to a caller.

Check your statements

Many of us do a lot more online shopping in the run up to Christmas than during the rest of the year, and it's easy to lose track of what we've spent. Check your statements regularly - if you see any transactions you don't recognise, contact your bank immediately.

Smartphones and tablets

Many people buy new phones or tablets as Christmas gifts for children or young people. Make sure you protect these devices with security software, and talk to your child about using the internet safely.

Visit the Action Fraud website for more advice on online security, or to report fraud.

Stolen goods

Thieves like to steal property which can be sold on easily.

Be careful if you buy gifts such as bicycles, mobile phones, games consoles and other electronics - register them on the Immobilise website and store them somewhere secure until the big day.

Also watch out for people selling these kind of goods for what seems like a bargain price. They could be stolen. If you think you may have accidentally bought something that is stolen, the Citizens Advice website provides advice on what to do.

Check before you share on social media

Make sure the privacy settings on your accounts are set to the highest levels. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the festive season and want to share that feeling with friends and family. But think twice - is it wise to show off the expensive gifts you've got stacked up?

Don't let those casual online acquaintances you don't really know see what you've got in your house. Even better, keep your gifts hidden away until nearer the big day. Burglars find it much easier to take the whole lot when it's all together under the tree.