Staying Safe While Shopping Online

Elderly woman shopping online with her tablet device while drinking a cup of tea

More and more of our daily lives are moving online. From shopping to how we communicate there are plenty of ways it can benefit us. Yet, there are certain things that you should be aware of any time you shop online. Being aware of these dangers could help you to safeguard against them. Making some small changes could mean you can enjoy the benefits of an online world.

What is an online scam?

An online scam is where a criminal will try and get something of value from you through digital means. This can take a few forms. So you can be vigilant against them, here are some of the most common ones:

Phishing scams

This can take the form of a message where the criminal will ask you for your information. It can be in the form of a text message, email or even a phone call. Usually, the criminal pretends to be a reputable source like a bank or government body. They will then usually ask for things like credit card numbers, bank account numbers or passwords.

Computer viruses or malware scams

In this situation, a person accidentally downloads a piece of software. From there it will then have access to everything on your device. Oftentimes it can act in the background without you knowing. These scams can either hold your information ransom or outright steal it. Along with financial things it may also take your photos and documents. These tend to come in the form of pop-ups. Pop-ups are other small ‘windows’ that will appear on top of the website that you are currently looking at. There are legitimate pop-ups but they tend to be in the minority. A legitimate website will often inform you when a pop-up will be coming. While an illegitimate pop-up could claim that your computer is slow or that you've won a prize. It is best to ignore anything asking you to download software unless you trust it.

Unexpected prize scams

With this kind of scam, you will be contacted out of the blue. The person or company will tell you have won some kind of extravagant prize. This could be money, a car or even property. They can be very convincing scams and have been used by criminals for a long time. Usually, you can spot them by enquiring about the process of getting your prize. Often the criminals will ask for cash or information upfront before sending out the prize.

Romance scams

One of the more sinister types of scams. Relationship scams often take place on online dating sites. A criminal will generally create a fake identity. From there they will con the unsuspecting user out of their money or information. A lot of online dating sites have worked to fix this problem but you should always be careful.

Overpayment scams

Buying on online marketplaces can end up saving us a lot of money. We can even make money on these sites. Yet, it can still be a big target for scammers. In such a scam they will say they have exactly what you’re looking for. A deal will be struck and it will seem okay until it comes time to exchange money. They may then ask for the money to be paid twice more than agreed. They can also try and get your money upfront. Once it has been transferred over they will drop all communication with you.

These are a handful of the kinds of scams that can take place online. Technology is changing all the time and cybercriminals are evolving their techniques. Awareness is always key to prevention.

How can you stay safe while shopping online?

After reading all that you may not think it’s worth the hassle of even shopping online! It can seem like a big risk but there are plenty of benefits to shopping online. The most obvious one being that you don’t have to leave your house to shop. Staying safe online while shopping means following a couple of key tips. These might seem simple but they can really make the difference.

Protect your passwords

Passwords are the keys to every account you have online. You wouldn’t give the keys to your house to someone you didn’t know. Online passwords work the same way. The longer and more obscure they are, the harder they are for criminals to crack. You should also make sure that you regularly update and change them.

If you are feeling like you already have enough passwords to remember you can either write them down or use a password manager. A password manager is a particular computer program that safely stores all of your passwords and allows you to use them when needed. Of course, this is just a suggestion. If you don’t want to go for the more technical solution you can write them down. It’s vitally important though that you always remember to keep them in a safe place and only share them with people you trust.

Don’t respond to scam messages

If you spot a phishing message or feel like you have been contacted by a scammer do not respond to it. The best thing you can do is make a copy of the message or prompt and report it to the authorities. You can always report possible scams to the National Cyber Security Centre. They can help get on top of cybercrime with this information.

You also have the option to completely ignore the message. This can be the case if you don’t feel comfortable reporting it. As always, if you aren’t sure you can double-check with any friends or family. Usually, they can provide some guidance on whether it is a scam or not.

Go online with family members

No matter what advice you might read or be given, you still might not feel completely comfortable on your own. Chances are though that your family members have bought something online before. Asking them for help for the first few times could give you the confidence to shop online safely. If your family isn't around to help there is always the option of asking a friend.

Make sure that the website is secure & trustworthy

With this point, it is about keeping an eye out. There are a few subtle and not so subtle ways in which a website can look dodgy. The first two things you should look out for is the “https://” part of the web address. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’ so you know you the website is safer than a lot of others out there. Then there is the padlock that will appear in the window frame of the website, not on the website itself.

Another way of making sure that a website is legitimate is by checking up some independent reviews for the site. Websites like Feefo are great for making sure that everything is above board in the business. For example British Seniors has been awarded the Feefo platinum service award for 2023. This award recognises businesses for providing an outstanding experience. The ratings come from real customers as Feefo is an independent website. You can rest assured that if you choose to get life insurance with British Seniors, the process is simple and straightforward no matter which policy you choose. We're the UK's No.1 rated provider of Over 50s Life Insurance - with the highest ratings of all Over 50s Life Insurance providers with more than 500 reviews on each of the following platforms: Trustpilot, Google, Feefo and See how we compare here.

As part of a phishing scam you may be contacted by email or text with a link. The message might ask you to click that link. If you were to click it you could be taken to a fraudulent website or you might even download a virus on your computer. For the same reason you shouldn’t respond to scam messages, don’t click on links that you don’t trust. Again if you're unsure if a link is legitimate don’t respond to it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. You can ask other people what they think and as mentioned previously you can always report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

What should I do if I feel like I’ve been scammed?

First of all, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Scammers are clever and as you have seen, they use a variety of ways to catch people out. The important thing to do is not panic. There are plenty of supports out there to help you out. You can check out all of the information you might need on the citizen’s bureau website. Here you’ll find everything you need to get help and report a possible scam.

Stay secure with British Seniors

While it may seem like there’s a lot of risks online, shopping can make a lot of things simpler. This can be banking, clothes shopping or even paying bills. Choosing British Seniors means that you can be confident you are going with a trusted service. Whether you decide to sort out a policy online or over the phone, the process is simple.

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