Coronavirus Blog Series: Shop Safe Online
Published 24 July 2020.
A recent article in the Independent stated that a survey carried out by Aviva, had found that one in five people had received or viewed communications mentioning coronavirus, that they suspected to fraudulent of part of a financial scam.
Common scams include online shopping adverts for protective face masks or hand sanitiser that are never delivered. In fact Action Fraud reported that one victim had lost over £15,000 when they purchased face masks that were never delivered. Coronavirus-related phishing emails have also been on the rise. The emails attempt to trick people into clicking on links or opening malicious attachments that allow fraudsters access to personal data, such as passwords, logins and banking details.
With the easing of lockdown measures and preparations for a potential second wave later in the year, it is important that we all remain vigilant. Below are some tips for staying safe online:
With the surge of people shopping online, if you are making a purchase for a product, be mindful that you are purchasing goods from a genuine retailer site. If in doubt, you can do a Google search for “Company Name Reviews”, this may bring up Trustpilot reviews or similar giving better insight into the company.
If you are in doubt the authenticity about any communication you receive, whether via email, text or WhatsApp, do your research. Spending a couple of minutes to find out more information could save you considerable time, money and stress in the long run.
One of the first checks you can make is to look at the webpage address bar. You should ensure that the URL contains the company name and is a secured site. Look for the “https://” at the beginning of the address, this indicates that the webpage is secure and means if you are entering personal or financial information, these will be encrypted and protected from third parties. Whilst important, you should never rely solely on the presence of “https://” as phishing sites will use this to fool shoppers.
Also remember to look for the padlock symbol on the URL bar. Clicking the padlock should inform you who has registered the site or alternatively provide you with a warning.
Social Media Advertisements
Online scammers are homing into social media platforms by using fake advertisements, especially for face masks and hand sanitiser. Never fully trust a company or product because it is advertised on a social media site. If you are tempted to buy goods from a site that has been advertised on your social media, take a common-sense approach (remember reviews can also be faked – see below).
Not all reviews are genuine, especially if posted on a Facebook page or other social media platform. People are often paid to leave fake reviews. Things to watch out for include only positive reviews (no negative or neutral ones), multiple reviews posted around the same date period and the review itself reads as a script.
Watch out for huge discounts on products. Online scams will often try to attract consumers by advertising products at extremely low prices. If it looks or seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
It is always advisable to read the returns policy on every purchase you make. Look out for websites that do not offer returns or exchanges. Under the Consumer’s Rights Act 2015, consumers have the right to a full refund on faulty items for 30 days after purchase and this includes digital goods.
If you are making some larger purchases online or indeed in store consider using a credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, credit cards provide protection for purchases above £100 and below £30,000. Credit card protection can assist in covering the cost in several situations including: where you cannot get a refund on a faulty item; your item has not been delivered; your item does not match the description; or the retailer or trader goes out of business.
In this world of digital and cyber fraud, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, we all run the risk of finding that money has gone from a bank account without authorisation. MKB Law Associate Director Jonathan Jackson and his team have particular expertise in dealing with the Payments Services Regulations, and have recovered hundreds of thousands of pounds on behalf of clients.