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Top tips for safe online shopping this Christmas

9th December 2010 Print

Almost £9 billion is forecast to be spent online this Christmas with more than 30 million people planning to shop online this year. However, shoppers could be putting their online security at risk in their pursuit to bag a Christmas bargain with only one in seven (14%) shoppers prioritising buying from a trusted site.

Over three quarters (77%) of respondents plan to shop online for all or some of their gifts this Christmas, with online shoppers set to spend an average of £289 - a ten per cent increase on last year's spend. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) will do so to save money; over a third (37%) to take advantage of free delivery; and 29 per cent because of the speed and convenience of shopping online.

The most important factors when shopping online for Christmas are:

Saving money/ finding a bargain (63%)
Free delivery (37%)
Speed and convenience (29%)
To buy things you can't buy on the high street (14%)
Buying from a trusted brand/ website (14%)
Rapid delivery time (10%)
Ability to send items directly to the recipient as a gift (4%)

Rob Skinner, Consumer Affairs Manager at PayPal said: "Christmas is an expensive time of year and most of us want our money to go as far as possible. Shopping online is a great way to bag a bargain.  But getting value for money shouldn't mean putting your online security at risk - no matter how determined you are to get that special deal. It doesn't take long to check if a website is legitimate and not a cloned or unsecured site and taking time to check could save you money in the long run."

Worryingly, over two million people (5%) don't take any precautions at all. Even the most basic checks are missed by most online shoppers. Two fifths (44%) forget to look for the padlock icon when making a payment and nearly two thirds (65%) don't stop to check the transactional website address (or URL) starts with ‘https', both of which indicate the site is secure and has been given a security certificate by a trusted third party like VeriSign.

When it comes to checking a retailer's offline credentials, women are the savvier of the sexes. One in three (34%) women ensure that a website has a postal address and a further 33 per cent check it offers a customer services telephone number before making a purchase. This is compared to 32 per cent and 29 per cent of men who take the same precautions.

For the six in ten (63%) looking to bag a bargain this Christmas, sites like PayPal Shopping have a wide range of deals on offer no matter what presents you need to buy.  

PayPal's tips for safe online Christmas shopping:

1. Take the time to understand the refund policies for any online retailer you are planning to buy from, especially if they are not based in the UK. Make sure you are comfortable with the refund and return postage policies or compensation that you would get if something were to go wrong.

2. When making financial transactions online, take time to ensure that the site you're entering your details on is legitimate and secure, not a cloned or unsecure site. For example look for the padlock symbol in the browser and make sure the website address (or URL) starts with ‘https' as this will protect your personal information being shared with other users.

3. Protect your personal financial details by using a payment method such as PayPal which does not share your financial information with retailers.

4. Make sure you use one of the latest browsers, such as Internet Explorer 7 or 8, to surf the web and have the latest versions of security software on your computer and set them to automatic update. 

5. Beware a false sense of urgency. Many rip-off companies try to deceive you with the threat that something is in jeopardy if you don't update it ASAP. Always remember, if it is that urgent, the real organisation will let you know; to double check either go directly to the official company website or call them rather than clicking on any links in an email.

6. Finally, if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is - make sure you use reasonable judgment when buying online. Try to think of the offline equivalent to what you are doing and ask yourself if it is wise to make the purchase.