With Black Friday and the festive season fast approaching, a lot of us will be spying the deals, the sales and the Christmas gift ideas. It's a peak time for online shopping and banking, but it's also a peak time for scams…

Last year UK shoppers lost nearly £11 million to scams, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). Scams are getting more sophisticated by the day, so it's useful to know how to protect yourself.

We've outlined a number of best practices for online safety. In this guide, we'll run you through some fundamentals that you can follow to help keep yourself safe when shopping online.

  1. Use Secure Websites (HTTPs):
    • Ensure the website you're using has "https://" in the URL, indicating a secure, encrypted connection.
    • Look for a padlock icon in the address bar, typically on the left side, to confirm the site's security.

  2. Keep Your Devices Secure:
    • Install and regularly update antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices.
    • Use strong, unique passwords for each account and consider using a password manager.
    • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible for an extra layer of security.

  3. Beware of Phishing Scams:
    • Be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or calls asking for personal or financial information.
    • Never click on suspicious links or download attachments from unknown sources.
    • Verify the legitimacy of the sender or organisation independently before providing any information.

  4. Use Trusted Apps:
    • Download shopping and banking apps only from official app stores, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
    • Read app reviews and check permissions before installation.

  5. Public Wi-Fi Caution:
    • Avoid conducting sensitive transactions over public Wi-Fi networks, as they may not be secure.
    • Use a virtual private network (VPN) when necessary to encrypt your internet connection.

  6. Check Statements Regularly:
    • Review your bank and credit card statements regularly for unauthorised or suspicious transactions.
    • Report any discrepancies or unfamiliar charges to your financial institution immediately.

  7. Secure Your Personal Information:
    • Limit the information you share online and on social media.
    • Be cautious about providing personal details, especially your Social Security number, to unknown parties.

  8. Update Software and Systems:
    • Keep your operating system, web browser, and applications up to date with the latest security patches and updates.

  9. Online Banking and Shopping Safety:
    • Use strong, unique passwords for your online banking and shopping accounts.
    • Avoid saving login credentials in your browser or on public computers.
    • Log out of your accounts when you're done and close browser tabs.

  10. Verify Sellers and Websites:
    • Research online sellers and websites before making a purchase. Look for reviews and ratings.
    • Verify contact information and check for a physical address and phone number.

  11. Be Cautious with Emails and Links:
    • Don't click on links in unsolicited emails, especially if they claim to be from your bank or a shopping site.
    • Instead of clicking, type the website URL directly into your browser.

  12. Monitor Credit Reports:
    • Regularly review your credit reports from major credit bureaus for any suspicious activity.
    • Report any unauthorised accounts or inquiries immediately