Shop online securely this Christmas

Wednesday 12th December 2018
by Ken Walshe

Ken Walshe

Shop online securely this Christmas

It’s that time of year. Tinsel, sleigh bells, mistletoe, Santa, reindeer and party time for the cyber-criminal.

As technology improves, so does the cyber-criminal, so it’s important to be wary of anything that looks too good to be true. And even if it doesn’t!

A recent report showed that 51% of people in the UK prefer to shop online. (It’s 50% in Ireland)

Here are some things you need to watch out for when conducting your online Christmas shopping to ensure you shop online securely:


  • Ensure the shopping website connection is encrypted using HTTPS.
  • Always install the latest updates on your computer and mobile phone. Apart from improving your device, they also contain updates to help secure it.
  • Ensure your anti-virus software is up-to-date.

Fake online shops

They’re good and they’re believable. And they can even fool search engines. So be careful that it is the real shop you are clicking on and not a link that looks like it. It’s not a shop, but a well-known bank website had to be removed from Bing display ads because it was, in fact, a phishing operation. Here’s what to look out for from fake sites:

  1. Bad spelling and grammar is always a giveaway.
  2. Inferior website design is also a clue. If they’re real, the company will have spent a lot of money on good web design.
  3. Make sure there is a phone number, address and email address.
  4. Ensure the URL for the shop is in fact the company name and the correct URL rather than something that looks like one. There is a fake site called offering discounts of “up to 75%”. The real Pandora website is
  5. Don’t pay by bank transfer and use a credit rather than debit card. If there is an issue, having used a credit card means that there is the opportunity to cancel the purchase before payment is made. If payment has been made, there still may be a way to get your money back.

Here’s a link to a Which? article with information on how to identify fake shopping sites.


Don’t use the same passwords for everything. If a hacker gets access to an email and password, they will try the same login for other accounts. It happened to a friend of mine (who, of course, doesn’t do this anymore and shall remain anonymous). A year or so after LinkedIn accounts were hacked (which was in 2012), somebody bought 4 play stations via my pal’s eBay account. Fortunately eBay sent the confirmation email as it clearly was a dodgy looking purchase and that was nipped in the bud. So make sure to keep an eye on credit card and PayPal purchases (but not via the fake PayPal email link that arrives regularly in your mailbox) to check that all is as it should be.

Shop online securely

The Irish Police force, An Garda Síochána, launched the 2018 SOS (Safe Online Shopping) campaign in November.

Detective Superintendent Gerard Walsh of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said:

Buying online is a very convenient way to shop particularly in the busy run up to Christmas however shopping safely online is not a given, as there are inherent risks. It is vital that people exercise caution when shopping online and follow the fraud prevention advices provided.”

In 2016 in the UK, an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud and two million cases of computer misuse were reported to police. The Met police has release a number of online safety videos. View them here.

Following these tips and of course, listening to your gut instinct, will help you online securely this festive season.

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