How to avoid being scammed when Christmas shopping

Most people have already started Christmas shopping by November, in fact only 17% of people wait until December to start Christmas shopping. Only 10% of these people only shop in-store; everyone else does at least some of their shopping online and unfortunately there are unscrupulous people out there ready to steal the money you’ve set aside for gifts.

Fake websites – also called pharming – is a scamming technique where fraudsters redirect traffic from a real website to another fraudulent website with the purpose of spreading viruses or stealing sensitive data like email addresses, bank details and passwords.

The scammer can see everything you’re doing on the screen, which is how they’re able to get all that information. Then they could log into the real website as you and go shopping, they could use your email address to try their luck on other sites and they could even try and trick you into transferring money to them. By the time you realise something is wrong, it’s usually too late.

How to spot a fake website

When you go onto a website, in the address bar/URL, you should see a padlock in the address bar and ‘HTTPS’ at the start of the website address. This means the website has been validated by an authoritative third party to be what it claims to be. Avoid using websites without this padlock.

Also look out for spelling errors and bad grammar. Big companies and ecommerce aren’t immune from the occasional typo, but it’s a red flag to prompt you to check for that all important padlock.

What to do if you’ve been a victim or a fake website

Inform your bank or account providers and change any passwords that match the one used right away. You should also report it to Action Fraud to help in closing the website down and preventing further scams.