Don’t gift criminals your cash this Christmas

WITH Christmas approaching, Suffolk Constabulary is urging people to stay vigilant while shopping online and not gift criminals their cash.

With cold weather and busy streets in town centres across the county, locals will be tempted to turn to the internet for a hassle-free Christmas shop; however it is important to remember that cyber criminals are eager to take your money.

Suffolk police does not want people to have their Christmas ruined and are offering some important security advice that should be taken into consideration to ensure you stay safe while shopping online.

To begin with, make sure you check out the website that you are considering buying from. Do not judge the website solely on what it looks like, ensure it has a physical address and contact number and check the sellers' privacy and returns policy.

If you do order goods over the internet, make sure that the company you are buying from uses a secure shopping server. You'll know if it is a secure site if a padlock icon appears at the bottom of your browser window or the web address begins with 'https:'.

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Community Safety's Chief Insp Kerry Pauling said: 'We are careful with money when shopping in the high street and we are cautious about who we buy from. It should be no different when shopping online. While there are obvious benefits to shopping online, it is important that you remain cautious and do not rush your purchases. Ensure every website you use is legitimate and follow simple safety advice. Fraudsters will do anything to get their hands on your money, so don't let them ruin your Christmas.'

If you do make purchases online, where possible use a secure payment service such as PayPal. If this is not possible then use a credit card rather than a debit card as banks provide security guarantees with a credit card that are not given with a debit card and use the same one for every purchase. Furthermore, ensure that your credit cards are registered with your card provider's online security services such as 'Verified by Visa' and 'MasterCard SecureCode'.

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Suffolk Trading Standards' Marc Titford added: 'Our advice to consumers would be to shop around. That great deal might well be on offer somewhere else. Use retailers and services you know about or ones that have been personally recommended to you. Make sure you know the trader's full address before you part with your money and remember that paying for those expensive Christmas presents over �100 with a credit card will give you extra protection.'

Once your purchases have been made, make sure you keep a record of the payments for each item and check your online purchases off against your statements. If there is any sign of irregular activity, report it straight away.

Basic safety advice:

• Use sites that you know you can trust - well known retailers or sites that have been recommended to you by a trusted friend or relative.

• If you use online auction sites, learn how it works and pick sellers with good feedback.

• Consider using a credit card when purchasing items as it gives you extra protection if things go wrong and try to use the same card for all purchases.

• Keep a record of all your online transactions including all receipts, order confirmations, correspondence and reference numbers.

• Remember, if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

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