Internet shopping is a big deal. For evidence, you only need to look at Black Friday, where over £1bn was spent online in just 24 hours. Of course, there are many reasons for this meteoric rise in popularity, with the ability to quickly and easily compare prices, whilst finding hard to track items, all from the comforts of your living room.

Whilst we're not suggesting to steer clear of Internet shopping completely, it's important to be aware of how best to buy both safely and securely. For instance, shopping with well known companies online is about as safe as it gets.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Steer clear of companies you don't recognise, especially if they're based overseas
  • If in doubt, search them with Companies House
  • Search for genuine reviews to determine the site's reputability and customer satisfaction. This could raise alarm bells
  • Keep a printout of all correspondence
  • Check with your banking to ensure the correct amount of money has been withdrawn
  • Avoid transferring money directly to someone's account
  • Try to use a different password for each site, rather than a generic one-fits-all that could compromise security.

How can I check a website is secure?

When inputting bank details online, you'll want the trust and confidence the website is both genuine and secure. If it's not either of these, there's a huge risk your details could be stolen and used for fraud -€“ losing potentially thousands of pounds.

Fortunately though, there are a number of ways to check a website's reputability, so you never have to take a risk again.

1. The padlock symbol

A padlock symbol on the left-hand-side of your address bar indicates the webpage is secure. It has to be in this location, not anywhere else on the page.

2. The web address starts with https://

https:// as opposed to http:// is your safe bet, as the S stands for secure. This offers you a little more peace of mind when shopping online.

3. A green address bar

On some (not all) secure websites, part of the address bar will turn green as a show of trust. By clicking this part of the browser you'll be able to find out more information on the security.

4. Valid certification

To check a website is valid, you can inspect its certificate. Either clicking on the padlock or to the left of the address bar allows you to see which name the site is registered under. If a warning sign appears, it would be advised to avoid using the website.

Guide to strong passwords

Almost every website in which you enter personal information, will require you to make an account. As part of this process, you'll be asked to choose a password, which will be entered each time logging in. When it comes to cyber fraud, a strong password is the first line of defence.

As such, you should choose different passwords for each account that are not only memorable to you, but not easily guessed by others. It's also advised to change these from time to time.

However, what's the best way for setting a password for each account used online? Take a look at the following tips to get a better understanding of online passwords and how to protect your personal information.

• Choose a unique password

This should be the same for all of your important accounts, including online banking, email and social media.

• Keep passwords in a safe location

As you'll be creating multiple passwords, it can of course be difficult to remember each. Writing these down would be useful, but don't leave them around in an easy-to-find place.

• Use a combination of characters

Ideally, you'd use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols to ensure it can't be easily guessed. Also, the longer the password the better. Avoid using personal information as a password too, such a mother's maiden name, your phone number or even favourite sports team.

• Make up a phrase

Struggling to come up with unique passwords that are memorable? Then consider making up a phrase and using the characters from this. For instance, '€˜Premier Choice Internet offer bespoke solutions for your business', could be shortened to PcIoBs4yB.

• Set-up password recovery options

It's common for people to forget their passwords and as a result, become locked out of their account. In order to regain access, you'll likely be emailed as a way to reset the password. Therefore, ensure to update your account should your email address change. You could also have a code messaged to your mobile phone, so it may also be worth syncing your handset to each account.

Many prefer the option of a mobile phone as it'll likely always be in your possession -€“ whereas emails can be accessed and a security question guessed. If you take the route of a security question though, customise this so it's unique and not something that has been shared online or is well known.

Essentially, the more memorable and unique the password, the better protected your online accounts will be. Use the tips outlined above to increase your web security and ensure you're never the victim of fraud.

Phishing & fake online webpages

Online phishing just doesn't seem to go away and every day thousands of people are targeted by fraudsters sending fake emails and links to webpages. Popularly, fraudsters will create fake websites to mimic famous brands and then send emails to promote a click through. The sender could pretend to be from Amazon, eBay or even your personal bank.

Typically, the email will be phishing for your details. They'll try to tempt you into inputting card numbers or logins, under the pretence there has been unusual activity on your account or you're required to verify a transaction.

However, once you have provided these fraudsters with your details, they'll be able to make purchases on your behalf, clear your bank account and even max out credit cards.

As such, any communication received by text or email from a number or address you fail to recognise should be treated with caution. The chances are you have received these in the past and treated them as spam, but you may well have landed on a fake '€˜phishing' website in the past, by simply mistyping a web address.

The trouble is, fraudsters are doing a good job of creating websites to look like the real deal. These could be complete with logos, advertisements and even articles and tips. If you're in anyway unsure if the website is genuine, close the browser and retype the address. Never login to your account if you can't fully trust the site.

To help you avoid falling victim to phishing websites, try following the tips outlined below:

• Lookout for misspellings

Phishing websites may look the real deal, but the chances are there'll still be an obvious flaw -€“ especially in the web address bar. Check for a common spelling mistake, such as a '€˜1' in place of an '€˜L'. An example of a website to avoid would be

• Check for https://

Most legitimate websites where it's possible to make transactions will start with https:// and not http://. Double check both forward slashes are present, as well as the '€˜s' for secure.

• Don't trust pop-ups

Recently, there have been a spark of phishing campaigns linking victims to real addresses, but then using a pop-up window for people to enter their details into. You should avoid entering your login information at all costs.

• Use fake information

Not sure if a website is genuine? Enter fake information and see what happens. Should the site log you in, you'll know it to be a phishing site. Just bear in mind, some fraudulent websites will display an error warning regardless of what details are entered.

• Consider an anti-phishing web browser

Some browsers will detect phishing websites and warn you. Plug-ins are available for browsers including Firefox and Internet Explorer.

5 tips for keeping safe when shopping online

The chances are you'll spend a considerable amount of time browsing online and shopping for goods. You don't have to turn away from the method of shopping through fear of falling victim to fraud either and these tips are designed to give you confidence to shop safely and securely.

1. Use the household names

Want to shop safely online? Then choose household names with secure websites. Everywhere you can think of now has its own website, from John Lewis and Debenhams, to Marks & Spencer's, Next and Matalan. Just ensure to spell the URL correctly, including the or .net

2. Check for the padlock symbol

We've mentioned this earlier in the resource, but its importance can't be overstated. The padlock symbol on the left of the address bar suggests the website is secure and can therefore be trusted.

3. Check your bank statements

Most people receive a bank statement through the post once a month, but you don't have to wait 30 days to view yours. Instead, set-up online banking and regularly check your outgoings. This will help you catch unauthorised transactions early, so you can block the card and limit the damage.

4. Protect your desktop

Surprisingly, many still don't protect their PC with the most basic form of antivirus software. This is simply asking for trouble. Antivirus solutions don't have to break the bank and give you an extra layer of protection should you accidently install something untoward.

5. Always choose a strong password

By the time you've finished this resource you'll likely be sick to death of us talking about the importance of strong passwords. But for any online banking or shopping, these are crucial to keeping your personal details safe and secure. A combination of characters is best and websites will often let you know the strength of a password as you type.