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Shopping safely online

Shopping online is quick and convenient – it can be done from the comfort of your own home, or even when you're out and about. But it's important that you shop securely by protecting your personal and financial information. 

What is online shopping?

Online shopping allows you to buy goods or services over the internet. You can shop online from most major supermarkets and high-street shops, as well as smaller independent shops, for groceries, clothes, household items and more.

You can either have goods delivered directly to your house (usually for a small delivery fee), or you can use a service called 'click and collect', where you order online but collect items in-store, meaning you spend less time in the shops. On some sites, you even have the option to collect your items from a local convenience store or newsagents.

How can I shop safely online?

There are some simple things you can do to help protect your money and information while shopping online, including:

  • Use online retailers with a good reputation, such as well-known supermarkets, high-street shops, or established online stores.
  • Look for the company's full contact details. A reputable company will always display this information on its website. You can also search the name of the company on the internet to see if anyone has experienced problems with the retailer.
  • Beware of pop-up messages that warn you about a website's security certificate. They may direct you to a fake website that’s designed to get you to hand over your details.
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is, and be cautious of anything offered in an unsolicited email.
  • Use the same card for all your online shopping. This way, it's easy for you to check the bank statement for this card regularly for any unusual transactions and contact your bank immediately if there's a problem.
  • Use a credit card, rather than a debit card, for internet transactions. This offers you additional protection – if your purchase costs more than £100 and you use a credit card, the seller and your card company are equally responsible if anything goes wrong.
  • Consider using a PayPal account. This is an online account that you link to your bank account or payment card. It's secure and comes with more payment protection than a debit card. .

How do I buy groceries online?

Most major supermarkets offer online shopping, and you might find that smaller independent shops local to you have an online shopping and delivery service too. To shop with major supermarkets, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the supermarket's website. If you've already registered with them, click 'log in' and enter your details. If you haven't, click 'register' – for most major supermarkets, this will be on the top right-hand corner of the screen. You'll need to enter some details, such as your email address, to make an account. 
  2. First, book a delivery slot. This is usually a one-hour window on a specific day, and the price of the slot will vary according to demand. It's a good idea to check when the next delivery slot is before you put all the items in your virtual basket.
  3. Search for the items you want in the search bar or browse by using the menus. The website is organised with the products in different categories, just like a supermarket aisle.
  4. If you've shopped with the same supermarket before online, it will remember what you've previously bought and suggest these to you in your 'favourites' or 'previous orders'.
  5. Click 'add' underneath the item to add what you want to the virtual trolley.
  6. Most supermarkets have a minimum spend of around £30 before you can get your shop delivered directly to you.
  7. Click 'checkout' and enter your payment details to pay for your items. You may be charged a pre-authorisation payment initially, which reserves funds for a future payment. The final payment will be taken on the day of the delivery, so you only pay for exactly what's delivered.
  8. On the delivery day, you'll be told if any items are out of stock and can't be delivered. You'll be offered a substitute item but you don't have to accept it.

If you regularly shop with a supermarket online, it might be worth buying a delivery pass or delivery saver. This means you make a one-off payment  so that you don't need to pay for delivery each time. It might also give you priority access to certain delivery slots.

What information will I give when I pay for something?

You'll never be asked for your card PIN (Person Identification Number) when you pay for something online, but you will be asked for the following details from your debit or credit card:

  • the 16-digit card number on the front of your card
  • the expiry date on the front of your card
  • the 3 digits on the back of your card, known as the security number, or 'CVV', 'CVC' or 'CVV2' (Card Verification Value).

When purchasing something online you can set up an account with the retailer. Make sure to use a different password for each account, and always use a strong password. Click here to find out more about online password security.

Sometimes the website or your internet browser prompts you to save your card details for next time – never do this on a shared computer, and make sure your device is protected with a password, PIN or fingerprint login if you do save your card details.

How do I know if a website is secure?

Make sure that you're using a secure website before entering any personal details. You can check that a website is secure by answering the following questions

  • Does the website address start with 'https'? The 's' stands for secure.
  • Is the address bar green? This is an additional sign that you’re using a safe website.
  • Is there a padlock symbol in the browser where the website address is? The padlock doesn't verify that the page is safe if it appears on the page itself.
  • Is there a current security certificate that's registered to the correct address? You can check this by clicking on the padlock where the website address (or 'URL') is. 
  • Does the website end in '.com' or ''? Websites that end in '.net' or '.org' aren't usually used for online shopping.

You can see some examples of the symbols to look out for on the Google support website. .

Be aware that a padlock symbol isn't a guarantee of safety. If you have any doubts, it's best to leave the page.

If you're shopping online using a computer, you can also use safe settings in the Google Chrome browser. .

What if something goes wrong with my online shopping?

If your delivery doesn’t arrive, is damaged, or if the wrong item arrives, get in touch with the online retailer. They should arrange a refund or deliver a replacement. If you're not happy with the response from the retailer you should contact your bank.

If you notice any unusual transactions in your bank account, contact your bank immediately. You'll usually be able to get your money back if your card details have been compromised and used by a fraudster. It's a good idea to check your bank statement regularly – you'll notice any unusual transactions sooner. 

Contact Action Fraud

If you’re worried something might be a scam, or think you’ve been scammed, contact the police and then Action Fraud. The information you give Action Fraud can help them find the scammer.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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