Christmas 2019 is coming but not before Black Friday and Cyber Monday takes over our lives.
Compared with even ten years ago, the number of transactions we now make over the internet
and the amount of money we spend on those transactions has grown exponentially.
We are truly at the beginning of a major shift in the way that consumers and businesses interact
with each other from the presentation of products, how we pay for those products, and how we
But it’s not only the online retailers who have been gearing up for the busiest ever Christmas
period, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. The world’s cybercriminals also spot enormous potential
in taking advantage of short circuiting people’s sensible decision making through a subtle mixture
of social engineering techniques.
This article is a timely reminder to our valued clients about staying safe online when shopping. I'd like to share with you Sprout's top 8 tips and explain the importance of each one to you:
- make sure your devices are cyber-secure
- don’t get stung on hidden delivery or handling charges
- pay by credit card
- make sure the site is secure
- have different passwords for different websites
- if they ask for too much information…
- if the offer seems too good to be true
- know who you’re dealing with
Make sure your devices are cyber-secure
Even if you make a purchase from a website that’s safe and secure (I’ll come onto that shortly),
if your computer, tablet or smartphone isn’t protected from potentially damaging viruses, your
personal and financial information – such as passwords and credit and debit card details – are at
risk from being stolen.
Use virus protection software to scan your devices for malicious software and make sure they’re fully cleaned up before purchasing any products via the internet. If you’re using a wireless connection when shopping online, make sure you’re using a secure connection that can’t be intercepted by a third-party. Typically, a WiFi connection that’s secure will ask for a password when you attempt to log in to the network.
Don’t get stung on hidden delivery or handling charges
Although you might have spotted a bargain online which seems simply too good a deal to miss out
on, it’s important to check the small print before hitting the ‘buy’ button. Be clear on the delivery
and shipping information prior to placing your order because these charges can quickly mount up,
significantly increasing the final price of your online purchase.
If buying items from outside the EU, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll likely have to pay
customs charges on any goods being sent to the UK. To avoid any unnecessary headaches
further down the line, make sure you buy goods from reputable sellers who use couriers able to
provide tracking information and insurance.
Pay by credit card or PayPal
Did you know that a credit card offers you more protection than if you use a debit card
to make a transaction online?
According to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, credit cards issuers must provide protection
for clients on purchases above £100 and below £30,000.
This protection also extends to receiving faulty or damaged goods meaning that, if you buy
something online which is not as desire or which simply doesn’t arrive, then your credit card
company has an obligation to refund you if the retailer refuses to.
Using PayPal on checkout is also a safer option than using your debit card. PayPal does offer a service called PayPal Purchase Protection that covers any platform payer if there's a problem. Also, if an item doesn't arrive or is significantly "not as described" by a seller, PayPal will arrange for a full refund. The company also offers similar "backstop" programs to protect companies and individuals who sell products and services on its platform.
Make sure the site is secure
When browsing online, you’ve probably noticed a little padlock icon next to the URL of the website
you’re visiting. This symbol indicates that a webpage is secure – meaning any information you
supply to the site such as email addresses, passwords and credit card numbers are encrypted.
Encrypted sites - which begin with “https:” rather than “http:” - make it much more difficult for
hackers to intercept your personal and financial information that those which are not because
information transmitted to and from your computer is encrypted.
So, before purchasing an item or paying for a service online, make sure the website you’re visiting
Have different passwords for different websites
Despite new biometric methods such as fingerprint and retina scans being increasingly used for
authenticating payments online – particularly when making purchases via a mobile – the majority
of UK consumers still use a written password when logging into a website to buy goods and
For ease of use, customer’s credit and debit card details are often saved within your online
shopping accounts which means it’s vitally important that you use a strong and unique password
for each of your accounts in case of a data breach.
You can use a tool such as Strong Password Generator to quickly and easily create a secure
password for using online.
Read our article on setting strong passwords here.
If they ask for too much information…
Beware of websites which ask for too much personal information as they may be attempting to use
your data to carry out fraudulent activity. When shopping online, you should only provide
information that’s necessary for buying and receiving goods, such as your shipping address,
phone number, email address and payment details.
Unless you’re applying for official legal documents such as a passport or driver’s license via the
official government website, you should never hand over information such as your national
insurance number or your date of birth unless it’s an optional requirement.
To avoid annoying sales calls and unsolicited emails, you should also check whether the merchant
intends to sell or share your information with third parties. This information can typically be found
If the offer seems too good to be true
If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the price of an item you’re interested in
purchasing is significantly cheaper than the competition, you should consider if the goods are of
satisfactory quality and legitimate. Before going ahead with a purchase, check the company’s
online reviews to discover how satisfied previous customers are with their items.
Know who you’re dealing with
As I've mentioned, checking a company’s reviews are a good way of discovering how reputable
they are. Before shopping online – whether buying goods from a small, independent boutique or a
large multinational retailer – conduct your own background research to find out things such as
typical delivery times, returns policy, and general product quality.
Be careful this Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout Christmas
Online fraud and theft are very real and present threats this Christmas for anyone using the
internet to buy goods and services online.
If there’s anything in this article of particular concern which you’d like to speak to one of our
colleagues about, please call Sprout IT today on 020 7036 8530 or email us.