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Covering your tracks

Top ten tips for safe shopping

7 December 2016 - by Janaki Mistry, Volunteer

Christmas and the end-of-year sales mean an increase in shopping, both online and offline, and it’s important to be aware of potential risks.

Here are ten tips to help you stay safe when shopping and avoid becoming a victim of fraud and theft – whether it’s a fake online shop taking your money and never sending you anything, or a criminal stealing your identity and making purchases in your name.

  1. Always make sure you that you have your parent’s or carer’s permission when buying something online. Ask them to help you check that everything looks ok if you’re not sure that you can trust the website.
  2. Make sure your phone, tablet and computer settings are kept up to date to protect you from viruses and hacking. Companies send out these updates partly to help keep their customers as safe as possible from cyber-attacks.
  3. Avoid buying items online when your device is connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, as others may be able to see your details.
  4. Make sure you have a strong password for all of your different shopping accounts. Try using a random word that you’ll remember, and add numbers and punctuation marks to it.
  5. Always look for the green padlock symbol and ‘https’ in front of the web address when buying a product online. This shows that the website is secure.
  6. Be careful when carrying and paying with a contactless card; if someone steals the card they can use it without knowing your PIN. If you realise that you’ve lost your card or it has been stolen, ask your parent or carer to help you cancel it as soon as you can.
  7. When you take out money from an ATM for shopping, make sure that no one behind you can see your PIN as you enter it. Cover the keypad with your hand to make it more difficult for people to see. Be ready to take your card and money as soon as they come out, so they are not hanging there for a thief to grab!
  8. Do not trust any emails, texts or phone calls that ask you for your PIN or password. Your bank and shops will never ask for this information. If you receive an email that says it’s from your bank, get in touch with them through the phone number, email address or live chat on their official website and ask if it’s genuine. Links in a fake email may go to a copy of the site that then steals your login information.
  9. Keep track of everything you’ve bought and check your bank statement regularly to make sure that there are no purchases logged there that you don’t remember making. The sooner you realise that you haven’t received your goods or that someone else has been buying things with your money, the easier it can be to sort everything out.
  10. Be careful when buying items, especially digital items such as DVDs, from small temporary retailers such as market stalls. If the item is faulty or you have a complaint, it can be difficult to track down the seller to get your money back.


How can You & Co help?

If you see or experience any kind of crime when shopping, you can call our free Supportline on 08 08 16 89 111 (24-hour at the weekend, 8pm-8am during the week) to speak to us. You can also call Childline’s 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or have a 1-2-1 chat with a Childline counsellor, who will offer advice and support for any issues you may be dealing with.

You should tell an adult that you trust as soon as possible, so that they can help you. If it feels difficult to start this conversation, try reading our advice on asking for help. Remember that it’s not your fault if you experience fraud or theft. You’re not alone and there are lots of people whose job it is to help you sort it out and feel better.

If you have seen or experienced something suspicious, or you think you have been a victim of fraud, you can report it on the Action Fraud website and start a live chat with one of their advisors.