Beware of fake retail websites this Christmas
More than 2,000 websites have been suspended by the Metropolitan Police for selling counterfeit goods or no goods at all - but there are still plenty of fraudulent sites to watch out for.
Unwitting shoppers are lured to the websites because they sell big brand and designer names, such as Nike, GHD, Tiffany and Ugg, at reduced prices.
These websites are particularly popular during the festive period.
"The sites suspended are registered in bulk by crime groups with the sole intention of duping consumers in to parting with their money for, at best, poor quality counterfeit goods, at worst, nothing at all," explains Detective Inspector Paul Hoare of the Police's e-Crime Unit (PCeU).
Shoppers also put themselves at greater risk of identity fraud with criminals able to steal personal contact and banking details.
The PCeU will continue to hunt out as many fraudulent websites as it can in the coming weeks before Christmas, but Tony Neate, managing director of Get Safe Online, urges customers to be on the lookout themselves.
"People need to be vigilant when shopping online for Christmas presents. Being aware of the warning signs, and taking a few simple precautions, is all that's needed to shop with confidence."
The Metropolitan Police won't reveal the names of the banned websites, but the fact that these are banned means consumers cannot reach these anymore.
Five tips to shop online safely
1. Buy from an approved website
If you're unsure how kosher a retailer really is go direct to the manufacturers to see if a specific website is approved. Uggaustralia.co.uk, for example has a whole section on advice on how to spot counterfeit goods.
Also check a company's contact details – does it provide a physical address and telephone numbers as well as email details?
2. Buy from a secure website
Only enter payment information on websites that display either the padlock symbol or start their address with 'https' - the 's' stands for secure.
3. Avoid auction websites
Although it's possible to get some fantastic bargains from sites such as eBay.co.uk and amazon.co.uk, when it comes to branded goods, unless you buy from the specifically labeled marketplace sections of these sites (which sell goods direct from retailers) avoid buying from individuals.
4. Pay by credit card
If you're spending over £100, pay by credit card instead of debit card. Doing so means you're covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This allows you to claim money back from your credit provider if you're unhappy with a purchase.
5. Keep secure
Ensure you use passwords that aren't easy to guess. For example, avoid using your date of birth or old surnames. Use a combination of letters, numbers and upper and lower case to make it harder to detect passwords.
Has the news of fake retail websites put you off shopping online this Christmas time? Share your thoughts in our poll.
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