Shopping from the comfort of your sofa on a phone or tablet is a task many of us now do on a regular basis, with more than 92% of consumers shopping online with retailers. But 41% of shoppers in Belfast have been targeted by scams in the last few years, and, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, the Consumer Council is warning shoppers to be scam aware as they hunt for bargains.
While most online shopping is with well established brands and stores, it can be easy to end up on an unfamiliar site when you are trying to get the best deal or chase down an ‘in demand’ item. The types of scams people are targeted with have become more sophisticated, with emails and text messages that appear to be from legitimate sources, or payment portals that look like any other but may not be the real thing.
While 41% of shoppers know they have been targeted with a scam in the last three years, 55% don’t know where and how they would report such activity. The increase in online offers around Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean that people may drop their guard as they try to purchase what they need before it is too late. To help shoppers stay safe when sourcing their bargain buy, the Consumer Council has put together some helpful tips:
- Be wary of suspicious delivery advice cards and fake delivery messages – If you’re not expecting a delivery, double check the information on the card or message. And don’t just dial the number on the card – they can be premium rate – so check the company website in the first instance.
- Never give away personal details or payment information to an unsolicited text or email – If you are unsure if an email or text is genuine, contact the parcel delivery company directly using the number from their website to confirm.
- Avoid buying counterfeit goods – When shopping online, be cautious of goods that are being sold at low or tempting prices. Just remember, if the deal seems too good to be true, then often it is.
- Make sure to buy from a reputable retailer – If you are buying from a company you have never used before, research them first by checking for reviews or feedback from previous customers.
- Stay secure when making payments online – Always look for a padlock symbol in the browser bar and make sure the web address has an ‘s’ after ‘http’. The ‘s’ stands for secure. These do not guarantee that a website is safe to use but can help to identify any that cannot be trusted.
- Be careful when clicking links on social media or in emails – When you click a website link that then asks you to enter personal information or payment details, it is better to type in the website address yourself. This is because links may direct you to a fake, but realistic looking, website.
Speaking ahead of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush, Michael Legg, Head of Postal Services at the Consumer Council said “The simplicity and convenience of shopping online has made it a central part of our everyday lives, but the popularity of it has made it a key target for scammers and criminals. It is very worrying that 40% of people in NI have been targeted with a scam, some of which may be preventable if people know the signs to look out for and are always on their guard. At the Consumer Council we want to share helpful and up to date information to help people in NI become more scam aware.
“Christmas, Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring a huge increase in shopping, with many retailers offering great deals and bargains. It is at times like these where we cannot drop our guard, in fact we should be more vigilant about what we are clicking, who we are giving payment details to and what packages we are expecting to arrive on the doorstep.”
Anyone who has been a victim of a scam should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If money has been taken from your bank account you should contact your bank immediately; and if you are in immediate danger the first point of contact should always be the PSNI.”
The Consumer Council provides a variety of support and information about staying safe from scams online at consumercouncil.org.uk/scams. Support and information is also available on FREEPHONE 0800 121 6022 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.