ACTION Fraud are reiterating the importance of being careful of online shopping fraud as more people are expected to shop online for Christmas.

Last Christmas, data has shown that criminals conned 17,407 shoppers out of almost £13.5 million, an increase of over 20% when compared to the same period in 2018.

Figures also reveal reports that online shopping fraud have surged by 30% over the pandemic as many of us continue to shop online in light of current restrictions.

Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online and have released their top tips as shoppers search for bargains and gifts for loved ones in the run up to Christmas.

1. Choose carefully where you shop

It is worth doing some research on online retailers to check they are legitimate such as reading feedback from people or organisations including consumer websites that you trust.

Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites. If you are unsure, do not use the link, and instead type a website address that you trust directly into the address bar or use a search engine.

2. Use a credit card for online payments

Use a credit card when shopping online if you have one as most major credit card providers protect online purchases and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances.

Using a credit card rather than a debit card also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account won’t be directly affected.

Debit card payments and purchases are not covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act but you might be able to make a claim for a refund under a voluntary scheme called ‘chargeback’.

You should also consider using an online payment platform, such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Using these platforms to authorise your payments means the retailer doesn’t even see your payment details.

They also provide their own dispute resolution should anything go wrong however, they may not provide the same protection as a card provider, so check their terms and conditions before your sign up.

When it is time to pay for your items, check there's a 'closed padlock' icon in the browser address bar.

The padlock icon doesn’t guarantee that the retailer itself is legitimate but does mean that the connection is secure.

If the padlock icon is not there, or the browser says not secure, then don’t use the site. Don't enter any personal or payment details, or create an account.

3. Only provide enough details to complete your purchase

You should only fill in the mandatory details on a website when making a purchase which are usually marked with an asterisk and will typically include your delivery address and payment details.

You shouldn't have to provide security details such as your mother's maiden name, or the name of your first pet to complete your purchase.

If possible, don't create an account for the online store when making your payment unless you think you will become a regular customer.

You can usually complete your purchase without having to create an account or by using an online payment platform such as PayPal.

The store may also ask you if they can save your payment details for a quicker check-out next time you shop with them. Unless you're going to use the site regularly, don't allow this.

4. Keep your accounts secure

If you're using the same password for your online accounts or using passwords that could be easily guessed then you're at risk as hackers could steal your password from one account, and use it to access your other accounts.

For this reason, you should make sure that your really important accounts such as your email account, social media accounts, banking accounts, shopping accounts and payment accounts like PayPal are protected by strong passwords that you don't use anywhere else.

You can further protect your important accounts from being hacked by turning on two-factor authentication which stops hackers from accessing your accounts, even if they know your password.

It does this by asking you to confirm that it's really you in a second way - usually by asking you to enter a code that's sent to your phone.

5. Watch out for suspicious emails, calls and text messages

You'll probably receive many messages from online stores, as a result of 'opting in' to receiving communications from them but lurking amongst these genuine messages, there may well be fake ones containing links designed to steal your money and personal details that can be very difficult to spot.

If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at

If you've received a suspicious text message, forward it to 7726. It won't cost you anything, and allows your provider to investigate the text and take action if found to be a scam.

If you come across an advert online that you think might be a scam, report it via the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website.

6. If things go wrong

If you think your credit or debit card has been used by someone else, let your bank know straight away so they can block anyone using it.

Always contact your bank using the official website or phone number. Don't use the links or contact details in the message you have been sent or given over the phone.

If you think you have responded to a suspicious email or text message, or visited a scam website, don't panic. Read the guidance on dealing with scam emails, phone calls and text messages on the National Cyber Security Centre website.

If you have lost money, tell your bank and report it as a crime to Action Fraud which will help to prevent others becoming victims of cyber crime.

If you don't receive the item or it doesn't match the description given, Citizens Advice has some useful information about getting your money back if you paid by credit card, debit card or PayPal.