Image demonstrating Christmas shopping tips: How to stay safe when buying online

Christmas shopping tips: How to stay safe when buying online

With hundreds of independent retailers in Northumberland we’re sure you’ll be sure to find everything you need and more for the festive season. We always recommend buying locally wherever possible, either in local shops or through their websites, to look after our small businesses and protect local jobs. 

If you are shopping online from businesses you don’t know, follow these simple tips from the Trading Standards team, which is part of the Councils’ Public Protection Service, to help you stay safe and ensure your hard-earned cash doesn’t end up in the pocket of some scamster. 
1 Make sure the website is genuineSome scammers are very good at designing websites to look like well-known brands and can fool the unwary. The best way to make sure you are shopping on the genuine website is to type in the address yourself rather than clicking on a link.  
2. Check their reputationIf you are unfamiliar with the retailer, it is wise to do an online search to check recommendations and feedback from other customers to gauge their reputation. 
3. Look for contact details. Check that a physical UK address and contact telephone number is provided for the trader prior to making the purchase. Be aware that a web address does not necessarily mean the trader is based in this country. If things go wrong, it may be hard for you, or the authorities, to take action against an overseas trader, or a trader that cannot be found! 
4. Check the refund and returns policy - before you place an order. This should be available on the website. 
You have a right to a cooling off period when you buy online. Make sure that the trader provides details of your right to cancel and the procedure for returning your order. They should state that:  
  • You have at least 14 days starting the day after delivery to inform them of your wish to cancel.  
  • You have a further 14 days in which to return the goods.  
  • You are entitled to a refund of any standard delivery charge as well as the cost of the goods. 
Bear in mind that traders can specify that you are responsible for paying the cost of any return. You should think about this carefully if goods you order are particularly bulky or heavy.  
Don’t let businesses fool you into thinking you cannot return sale items; you have the same rights as when you purchase full price goods.  

5. Keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date. The latest versions of web browsers help block spoof websites. Switch on the ‘automatic updates’ setting so your protection is kept up-to-date. 
6. Ensure the checkout is secure.  At the online check-out, before you type in your credit card details, make sure the web address bar has switched from ‘http:’ to ‘https:’ to indicate a secure, encrypted connection. Any legitimate online site processing payments always switch to a secure connection at this stage. 
Look out too for the padlock symbol on the bottom right of the browser window or on the left of the address bar, to show that it is a secure connection to protect your payment details. Do not enter payment details into an unsecured site, as you may be gifting them to hackers! 

7 Shop securely 
If you are buying goods valued at over £100, consider using a credit card as if things go wrong, you can request a refund directly from your card provider.  
If you pay by debit card, your card provider may offer a chargeback facility if goods are not delivered or are faulty. But this is not required by law and may be strictly time limited. PayPal may also offer some protection but again this is not a legal requirement and will be subject to their terms and conditions and strict time limits. Avoid paying by bank transfer, as the bank will not be responsible for any refund if things go wrong. 
8Guard your privacy. Do not disclose personal information unless you know who is receiving it, why they need it, and how they’ll use it.  
9.  Keep a record of your transactions. Set up a folder on your computer where you can store all your transaction history. It’s also helpful to take a screenshot of how the goods have been described at the time of ordering.  This way, if there is ever a dispute you have the information on hand. 

10. Think twice, click once 
As the Christmas deal offers start stacking up in your inbox, it’s easy to forget that not all emails bring festive cheer. Most hacks start by convincing you to open an attachment or visit a link to download something. It’s an easy way for bad folk to install malware on your machine. 
Emails that can at first glance look to be from a known retailer, may be a scam – so it is always best to follow tip 1. 
Think twice, click once. If something is unexpected don’t trust it – delete it. 

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council, said: 
“Covid has changed the way many of us shop and the internet can be a convenient way of buying the things we need for a memorable festive season. Try and buy from a local online retailer if you can, to support our Northumberland small businesses with your custom. It may be more important to them this year than ever before. 

There are a lot of online scams, and many are very sophisticated. We’re reminding shoppers to be extra vigilant whilst shopping online and to follow the tips that our Trading Standards department has provided.  
If traders don’t provide the details required by law or try to restrict your rights, help can be sought from Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice Consumer Service by calling 0808 223 1133.” 
To find out more about shopping local go to 
Or join the following Facebook groups   
  • Search for "Northumberland, let's support" to join the Facebook group *Northumberland, UK*, Let’s keep supporting local businesses! 
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