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Police advice for CyberSafe shopping this Christmas

Dorset Police is continuing to educate the public on the threat of cyber-crime and, as the festive season fast approaches, is encouraging Dorset’s residents to ensure they are safe while shopping online.

The internet is a great way to purchase gifts and services and can save time, energy and often money. Online shopping can also widen the choice of goods available. There are, however, risks associated with shopping online and care needs to be taken with what you are buying, from whom, and how you pay for your purchases.  

Superintendent Mark Callaghan, Director of Intelligence, said: “The internet provides the widest choice for purchasing goods and gifts, but there are two golden rules to ensure your money is safe online.

“Always ensure you choose reputable shopping sites. Unfortunately there are plenty of bogus online stores and fake websites who offer goods and services that simply don’t exist.  

“Ensure that any online retailer is reputable by researching them. Establish a physical address and telephone contact details. The best way to find a reputable retailer is via recommendations from a trusted source.” 

Mobile phones are the most popular items targeted for sale or purchase by fraudsters, followed by furniture, home electricals and other electronics.

eBay and Gumtree continue to feature heavily in relation to shopping fraud followed by Facebook.

From November 2014 to February 2015, figures released by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), showed 173 Dorset residents were victims of online shopping fraud, losing a reported total of £138,470.

Superintendent Mark Callaghan continued: “Ensure the website is secure before entering your payment details. There is a risk of fraud from making payments over unsecured web pages or Wi-Fi connections.”

Dorset Police advises that there should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register.

Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself as this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.

The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. If using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green. 

Detective Superintendent Mark Callaghan offers these words of advice to Christmas shoppers:

  • Remember that paying by credit card offers greater protection than with other methods in terms of fraud, guarantees and non-delivery.
  • Double check all details of your purchase before confirming payment.
  • Do not reply to unsolicited emails from companies you don’t recognise. 
  • Some websites will redirect you to a third-party payment service (such as WorldPay). Ensure that these sites are secure before you make your payment.
  • Do not pay for goods when using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.
  • Safeguard and remember the password you have chosen for the extra verification services used on some websites, such as Verified by Visa. 
  • When making a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal, where money is transferred between two electronic accounts. 
  • Check sellers’ privacy policy and returns policy.
  • Always log out of sites into which you have logged in or registered details. Simply closing your browser is not enough to ensure privacy.
  • Keep receipts.  
  • Check credit card and bank statements carefully after shopping to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction. 
  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online. 
  • Where possible, check that the price listed by the retailer on your browser is the same as that quoted on other people's browsers, to ensure you are not being monitored and overcharged. 

“Think twice before clicking on any links. These can lead to hoax pages and sites designed to defraud you or steal your identity. Choose safe passwords – careless use of passwords can lead to an account being hacked.

“Together we can ensure all Dorset’s residents are CyberSafe.”   

Dorset Police is encouraging everyone to visit GetSafeOnline and cybersafe.dorset.police.uk for help and advice on online safety.

If you have been a victim of an online crime you can report this to Dorset Police by calling 101.


Issued: 02 December 2015