Shopping and paying safely online

Online shopping is a great way to compare prices, pick up bargains and track down those hard-to-find gifts – and with a bit of know-how anyone can do it safely. Just stick to a few sensible rules and look out for warning signs to ensure a safe and secure online shopping experience.

Safe shopping

Be especially careful when buying from small or overseas businesses you’ve never heard of.

There are plenty of benefits to shopping online. You’ll often get the most choice, the best prices and can shop from the comfort of your own home.

However, there are some guidelines you should follow to keep your online shopping experience as safe as possible.

  • Research your retailers. If you’re using a website to buy something for the first time, do some research to make sure it’s a legitimate business. If in doubt, search for their details with Companies House. For financial firms, check that they’re on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register.
  • Pay by credit card where possible. Credit cards give you more protection than other payment methods. You can find out more in How you’re protected when you pay by card.
  • Check the website is secure. Before you enter your payment details, you should make sure the website is secure. Scroll down to How to make sure you’re on a secure site for more details.
  • Read reviews. If you’re still not sure about using a website, then search the internet to see what other people are saying about it.
For more tips on keeping your online shop safe, visit the Get Safe Online website.

A video guide to safe internet shopping

How to make sure you’re on a secure site

You should only put your card details into sites that are secure. Otherwise someone could steal them and use them for fraud. On a secure site, you should see a few reassuring signs.

  • The padlock symbol. Look for a padlock symbol in the frame of the browser, next to the website address. This suggests that the site is secure, but it’s not a guarantee, and it doesn’t mean that the seller is honest.
  • The website address. The address in your address bar should begin https:// rather than http://. The S stands for secure.
  • A green address bar. Sometimes on a secure site all or part of your address bar may turn green. This depends on your browser and the website, but it’s generally a good sign. Clicking on it will give details of the site’s security.
  • A valid certificate. If you click on the padlock, or just to the left of the address bar, you should see information on the site certificate. This should tell you who has registered the site. If you get a warning about a certificate, be very cautious.
You can learn more about secure websites in Get Safe Online’s dedicated guide.

What if something goes wrong?

Using an e-money service (such as Google Wallet or PayPal) means you don’t need to give out your card details, but, you don’t get the same legal protection if things go wrong. Read more in E-payments – why, when and how to use them.

If you think your card has been used fraudulently let your bank know straight away so they can stop any further use of it.

As long as you haven’t acted fraudulently or negligently, you will get your money back from your card company if your card details are used online by a criminal to commit fraud.