Online Shopping Safety


Santa won't be the only one busy during Christmas. Scammers will be too!

Fraudsters never take time off from attempting to steal people’s data or their hard-earned money. Over the festive period, however, there is usually an increase in these attempts so it’s important to be vigilant, as you could become a victim of such activity.

In 2021, cyber-security firms monitoring scamming activity saw a huge spike in the lead-up to Christmas Day, with large numbers seen through until Boxing Day.

Phishing messages (bogus communications like emails, letters, instant messages, or text messages) remain the most prevalent type of scam.

They will try to convince the recipient that they are from a trusted source, and fraudsters take advantage of either the rush to buy Christmas gifts or the festive ‘deals’ available by pretending to represent high street retailers. By including links in emails claiming to offer a festive discount or deal, victims are lured to fake websites where they're persuaded to enter personal information, login credentials or banking details that are harvested by fraudsters to commit fraud crimes such as identity theft and bank fraud.

You may also run the risk of your computer or smartphone being infected by viruses if you download attachments – around Christmas time fraudsters will claim the attachment is a voucher or coupon. There are several things you can do to keep yourself safe when online shopping, but the key things to remember are:

  • Use trusted retailers
  • Take advantage of extra security when online shopping
  • Know what support you can access in if you ever become the victim of a scam
  • Remain Vigilant - if it looks to good to be true, it probably is

JN Bank UK wish you a Merry Christmas and remember to be safe while shopping online during the Christmas period!

 Written by Harvey Perry
JN Bank UK Digital Marketing Executive

Online shopping

A major difference between online shopping and retail shopping is that you can’t look someone in the eye and physically see the product you have picked out to buy. Online shopping has revolutionised the Christmas shopping experience because now you can get it all done and delivered, conveniently to your door, instead of doing multiple trips to your nearest shopping centre. But it only works well when you trust the website or online store you are handing your money over to.

With that being said, there are still many ways you can make sure you remain safe online while doing your Christmas shopping. 

Using Trusted Retailers

If you’re not using a website that you frequently use, make sure you do your research before adding anything to your online shopping basket. Trustpilot is a tool to confirm if a brand has an authentic website, and also to see what other people have said about the website/service you are enquiring about to inform if you can trust it or not.

You also need to be vigilant with even well-known brands as they can be faked too. This 2021 article from Which? highlights the top five biggest scams of the year and the top four are a result of scammers pretending to be Amazon, HMRC, Royal Mail, and even the NHS. A cloned website or message from a presumed trusted source will look almost identical to the real deal, except for a few key details.

When using a website, glance your eyes up to the address bar of your webpage and see if the web address looks suspicious. Is the name of the brand spelt incorrectly? Do they use strange spelling? Can you see the Lock symbol before the web address? Does the web address say 'Not Secure'? These are a few quick things to look out for to inform if you can trust a website pretending to be an authentic and trusted service.

If you receive an SMS message that looks suspicious, always check who it was sent from. Organisations have security in place to protect their Sender ID, which should display a trusted brand name such as ‘NHS’ or ‘Royal Mail'. If you receive a message from an organisation claiming to be authentic, sent from an ordinary phone number, it likely has not been sent from an authorised organisation. Another key thing to note is the tone of the message. Scammers will usually try to convey a sense of urgency that “you need to pay money into this account to avoid your services being shut off”. Real organisations should never ask you to pay immediately or ask you to transfer money into a bank account.

Extra security when online shopping

Online financial crime has grown exponentially and because of this, banks and payment systems have added extra security to ensure that their business, their customers and their customer's money are protected from fraudsters. Unfortunately, no security is 100% bulletproof so it is important to use the security measures put in place by providers to protect you, but also to have your own extra security to keep yourself safe.

When making online purchases, some online banking apps will ask you to complete a two-factor authentication process to confirm you have just made a purchase. This can also appear as an SMS message being sent to your mobile phone which you then have to confirm with the retailer on the site. This means that anyone trying to make a purchase as you will need to verify that they are you.

Some other ways to stay safe online is to never sign into your online banking on a device that is not privately used by you. Never write down your password, and make sure your passwords are unique from one another.

How you can protect yourself online

Take Five is a national campaign established to educate consumers on the risks of online shopping, how you can stay safe while doing it, and help you access the resources available if you become the victim of a scam. 

The Take Five campaign encourages everyone to: 

Stop – Take a moment to stop and think before handing your money or private information over to someone. 

Challenge – Be confident in being able to challenge or refuse a request from someone asking you for money or information. A scammer will try to rush you or intimidate you into making the transaction, which is a clear sign to end the interaction there. 

Protect – If you think you have fallen for a scam, you should reach out to your bank as soon as possible to protect yourself. Their fraud team are on hand to support you during this time and resolve the situation as best as they can. Never sit and hope that the money won’t leave your account. 

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What to do if you have fallen for a scam

No one wants to fall victim to a scam, but the unfortunate truth is that anyone can fall for one - so it’s important to know what to do if it does happen to you. 

The first thing you should do is contact your bank, be connected to their fraud team and inform them of what happened. They may ask questions about what happened during your interaction with the scammer, who they said they were, what they said the money was needed for, how much was taken, etc. Banks such as TSB, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland have made a commitment to refunding money back to customers that have fallen victim to a scam, stating 'victims should be reimbursed unless a customer ignored their bank's warnings about the scam, or has been grossly negligent in transferring the money'.

Reporting the incident to Action Fraud is also important to not only find support for yourself but to help others who may have fallen for a similar scam. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, and with them, you will be able to file a report, track its progress, contact Action Fraud to discuss your report, and receive an update on the report by email.

Updating your passwords is the next key step. If you are someone that has a simple password (like YOURNAME1234) then you should update it as soon as possible. Additionally, if you are someone that uses the same password for all your accounts, then you should ensure all of your accounts now have updated, unique passwords.

Where else can I get help?

Once you’ve covered these steps, it’s time to take a breather knowing that you have successfully reported the fraud and added some extra security to your online shopping experience. Now it's time to reach out and find mental health and well-being support for yourself. There are organisations set up to help victims of fraud such as Take Five, Mind and Action Fraud - offering advice and guidance on how to stay safe, report fraud and useful tools such as the online scammer checker tool.