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How to avoid online fraud

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

Shopping safely online - keeping your financial details safe

Before you buy

Before you buy anything online make a note of the address of the company that you are buying from. This should include details of the telephone and/or fax - never rely on just an email address.

Always use secure sites

These sites have 'https' in front of the web address which indicates that the company has been independently checked to make sure they are who they say they are. A yellow padlock symbol will appear in the browser window to show the payment process is secure.

When buying online:

  • never transfer or receive money for someone else
  • check the site's privacy and returns policy
  • print out a copy of your order and any acknowledgement you receive
  • check your bank statement carefully against anything you buy online
  • keep your passwords secure

Recognising and dealing with internet fraud

You may be the victim of internet fraud if:

  • you have paid for an item online and it does not arrive
  • you sell 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 have been conned:

  • 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 on an auction site, like eBay, check with them to see if they can do anything about it
  • if you paid for goods 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 on the Consumer Direct website and this helpline: 08454 04 05 06, or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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
  • if in any doubt, you can check a company is genuine by looking them up on Companies House or the Financial Services Authority websites - if they are they will be registered

Identity fraud

If personal details like your address, passport number and National Insurance number are stolen they can be used to set up online accounts, apply for credit cards and even 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.

myguide: step-by-step beginner's guide to internet safety

Got a friend or family member who wants to get online, but is worried about viruses, spam or online fraud? They can learn how to protect themselves with myguide's 30 minute beginner's guide to internet safety.

See 'Helping someone get started online' for more about myguide.

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Race Online 2012

Improve the life chances of the 10m people who have never been online

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