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Advice Column #4 – November 2023

I do most of my shopping online. I am always on the lookout for a bargain, especially with the festive season coming up but I’m worried about scammers. What should I look for, to avoid getting caught out?

You’re not alone, lots of people do their shopping online these days, it’s convenient and can save you time. But as more and more of us move online, so are scammers, with their tactics becoming more sophisticated all the time.

While scams can be tricky to recognise there are always things you can look out for and steps you can take to protect yourself from falling foul to a scammer.

The golden rule to remember is that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. This goes for products which are ‘must-haves’, are sold out at major retailers, or are heavily discounted.

If you’re buying from a site you haven’t used before, do some research before hitting buy. Find the company’s return and refund policies so you know your rights if something goes wrong with your purchase. You should also look up the company’s address, this can normally be found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section and should have a street name, not just a post office box.

Also take some time to see what other people have said about the website. Start with an internet search and look at different review websites, don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.

Be very wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media or via text and email offering an item for sale or deal on something. And scammers will often ask you to pay in unusual ways, or put you under pressure to buy very quickly. For example, they’ll ask you to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers.

If you do fall victim to a scam, firstly don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Scammers are clever and regularly adapt their methods making them harder to spot. Anyone can get scammed.

Secondly, do report it, this alerts authorities to scammers’ techniques and prevents others from being taken advantage of. You can report a scam to Citizens Advice or Action Fraud.

If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours contact the police via the non-emergency number 101, however if you feel unsafe use 999. Also contact your bank to let them know you’ve transferred money; you should still do this if 24 hours have passed.

You can find out more about your rights via the Citizens Advice consumer advice pages or by contacting our Consumer Helpline if you need more help.

You can also find information about some of the latest local scams on our Rushmoor Against Scams Facebook Page.

“If you are shopping online, why not support Citizens Advice Rushmoor at the same time? Over 7,000 brands will donate to us when you use “easyfundraising” to shop with them – at no extra cost to you! These donations really mount up and make a real difference to us as a charity, so we’d really appreciate it if you could take a moment to sign up and support us.

It’s completely FREE and only takes a moment. Sign up here.