Here are some of our best tips from one of our senior lawyers and partners, Sean Hudson.  And if all this sounds a bit “bah, humbug” then we’re sorry, but it’s better to be safe than sorry...so read on to make sure you don’t fall foul of some of the more sneaky and dishonest internet practices that are waiting for the unwary.

Make sure you’re secure

When you’re using the internet to shop, be careful about the links you click on – watch out for dodgy sites and try not to click on advertising links in emails.  At this time of year there are plenty of scammers about. 

You know the expression “always read the small print” well, on the web you need to read the address bar as well – it’s often a good clue to whether a site is dodgy or not.

When you have to make an online payment, have a look at the address bar in the top left corner of your browser.  Do you know the difference between https and http?  It’s more than just the letter “s” and it’s worth knowing.  “https” is the start of an address on a secure site.  If an address starts with “http” then a website isn’t secure, and if it’s not secure do you really want to type in all your credit card details?  It would be like walking down a busy street shouting out your card number; anyone could hear it – and then use it.

Oh, and just because you see a picture of a padlock on a site don’t rely on that as proof it’s secure - you can hang lights and baubles on your dog but it doesn’t make it into a Christmas tree, does it?  The same is true of the padlock image on a website – having a picture of it on the website doesn’t automatically make a website secure – so make sure you can see “https” in the address bar before you hand over your details.

Even more basic but not always obvious, whether you’re browsing on your computer or your mobile device - make sure you’re using the latest browser software – it has built in security protection added to it.  It’s there for a reason so take advantage of it.  You’d turn on your house alarm to protect your presents under your tree when you’re out, so be just as safe online and use the latest browser for added security.

Remember to ‘hover’ and stay out of bother

So now we know that the site we’re shopping on looks legit, what else can we do to make sure we’re safe? 

Well think about maybe having a dedicated credit card to make your purchases with.  You’ll find more protection when you buy with a credit card than with a debit card.  And always be careful about “phishing” (fishing for personal security and account details) by scammers.

A handy and easy way to check a link in an email on your computer is to rest – or ‘hover’ – your mouse cursor over the embedded url address in the email and check that the address that shows up when you do that matches the one in the link itself.  If it doesn’t it may be ‘phishing’ scam designed to con you out of your bank account or card details, rather than what it says it is.  For example, this link here “www.qualitysolicitors.com/lawsonandthompson” is to our website’s homepage, when you hover over it with your cursor the address will match, meaning it’s ok to click, but if this ever looks suspect then beware!

Look before you leap, and check before you click

When you’ve put in your order and the confirmation of order pops up, be careful.  Watch out for a pop up that that redirects you to a fake site and asks you to re-enter your details.  You just did it without a second thought, didn’t you.  It’s often the case that we merrily fill in our details whenever asked to and without questioning the reason, but think about it: why would you need to put your payment details in twice?  Keep your guard up.

I always try to take a screen grab of an order confirmation on my computer or on my mobile device if that’s what I’m using.  It’s just an added protection in case for whatever reason the retailer doesn’t email me with confirmation of my order. 

It’s also a good idea to check your junk or spam folder periodically at this time of year for emails from any retailer you’ve ordered from as sometimes an over aggressive email inbox filter can drop those messages where you won’t be looking for them.  But be careful in there, there’s a lot of junk and not all of it’s safe – that’s why it’s there to begin with.

If something sounds too good to be true...

You know the expression to “trust your gut feeling”?  It’s usually right.  If something looks too good to be true it’s probably because it is too good to be true.  Bad grammar, poor spelling, shoddy looking pictures; all often point to something not being quite right. 

If you get a bad feeling about something, even if it looks like the bargain of a lifetime, maybe you’d better be safe than sorry and give it a miss. 

If you’ve followed these shopping tips, and you’ve navigated your way through to a successful purchase, put your feet up and enjoy Christmas...until the credit card bills come in...

...but then that’s a whole new posting and for another year!

Have a great Christmas, everyone!