Christmas is a fantastic time of the year, but it’s also a fantastic time of the year for fraudsters and criminals. Websites spring up online enticing you to buy products at extremely low prices, they look too good to be true, and they usually are! Last year, between 1st October and 31st December a record £15.2bn was spent online.
Follow our 7 tips to keep safe this Christmas:
1. Check the company’s telephone number
Not all online retailers will have one, but most reputable ones will have a telephone number visible on their site. If they don’t, be suspicous.
Don’t just glance at the telephone number: check it works. Give them a call, and make sure it is the company that answers. If it’s not, run away!
2. Check the company’s address
By law, all online retailers must display the name of their business, and their business address on their website. If you can’t see one, the site is probably a scam!
3. Check their company number
All the big companies will be registered at Companies House (the UK’s official register of all companys in Britain). If they’re not, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fraudulent. Look out for their company number on their site, if they’re registered they must display this prominantly. Our company number is SC320341, try searching us on Companies House and verifying our details as a practice!
Check their details online using Companies House free Web Check service here: http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/info
4. Check their VAT number
Again, not all businesses will be registered for VAT. These numbers are not just 9 digits long, they have a meaning! You can check that a VAT number is valid by using this site: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/vieshome.do
It’s important to remember however, that the fraudulent website may simply lift a valid and genuine VAT number from another company. The link given above only verifies the VAT number is valid, it does not provide details of the company it is registered to!
5. Check the encryption certificate
When it comes to putting in your personal details (usually at the checkout stage) you want to make sure the site’s owners are keeping that information safe. If you don’t see a “padlock” in Internet Explorer or the “blue bar” in FireFox, then be scepticle about the validity of the site you’re on.
|The Internet Explorer Padlock:||The FireFox Blue Bar:|
Having a secure connection doesn’t guarantee the identity of the company however. You can click on the padlock or the blue bar for more information about the company, or who they claim to be. If the information in the Certificate (the information you see when clicking on the padlock or blue bar) doesn’t match up with the site you’re on, run away!
6. Domain Name
The website’s domain name tells you a lot about the company – if you know where to look. The website http://whois.domaintools.com will give you a plethora of information about the website, and the country it’s hosted in (see point 7). Pop in the domain name (without the www part, so www.easypcscotland.co.uk becomes just easypcscotland.co.uk) on the Domain Tools website and you’ll be presented with the registrant’s name and address. If you’re not shown these details, be scepticle!
7. Website Location
Almost all well-known UK based retailers will have their online sites hosted from a server in the United Kingdom. You can check this using the same method as point 6 above, but this time after typing in the domain name, click the Server Stats tab.
In the Server Stats tab of the Domain Tools website, you’ll see the IP address and more importantly, the IP Address Location. Domain Tools also shows you a flag of the country, and the name of the country the site is hosted in. If Domain Tools tells you the site is hosted in Poland, or Russia, and you’re not shopping on a Polish or Russian site, then you guessed it! Run away like crazy!
We’ve tried to keep it simple…
By only giving 7 tips to remember, it should be relatively easy for you to stay alert when buying online this Christmas.
If you’re on a site, and you don’t know if it’s genuine or not, give us a call: 0131 516 8456. During December, we’re giving any customer who is unsure about the validity of an eCommerce site a second opinion completely free of charge!
We obviously cannot guarantee a site is 100% genuine, but we’ll do our best. And as long as you don’t take us to court if we get it wrong, we’ll be more than happy to help you for nothing!
Stay safe this Christmas!