Shopping online is quick and convenient, and can be done from home or even when out and about. But you need to protect your financial information. Unfortunately, there are people who will try and scam you or steal your card details. But by following some simple steps you can shop securely.

How can I shop safely online?

You can shop online from most major supermarkets and high street shops, as well as smaller independent shops. Goods can be delivered directly to your house (usually for a small fee), or you can also use a service called 'click and collect', where you order online but collect items in-store, or even from a local convenience store or newsagents.

To help protect your money and information while shopping or banking online, follow these simple tips:

  • Use online retailers with a good reputation, such as well-known supermarkets, high-street shops, or established online stores.
  • Look for the company's full contact details. A reputable company will always display this information on its website.
  • Search for the name of the company on the internet to see if anyone has experienced problems with the retailer.
  • Beware of pop-up messages that warn you about a website's security certificate. They may direct you to a fake website that’s designed to get you to hand over your security details.
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is, and be cautious of anything offered in an unsolicited email.
  • Use the same card for internet transactions only. Check the bank statement for this card regularly for any unusual transactions and contact your bank immediately if there's a problem.
  • Use a credit card, rather than a debit card, for internet transactions for additional protection. If your purchase costs more than £100 and you use a credit card, the seller and your card company are equally responsible if anything goes wrong.
  • Consider using a PayPal account. This is an online account that you link to your bank account or payment card. It's secure and comes with more payment protection than a debit card.

How do I buy groceries online?

Most major supermarkets have online shopping, and you might find that smaller independent shops local to you have an online shopping and delivery service. To shop with major supermarkets:

  1. Make an account on the supermarket's website by clicking register and entering your details.
  2. First book a delivery slot. This is usually a one hour window on a specific day, and the price of the slot will vary according to demand. It's a good idea to check when the next delivery slot is before you put all the items in your virtual basket.
  3. Search for the items you want in the search bar or browse by using the menus. The website is organised with the products in different categories, just like a supermarket aisle.
  4. If you've shopped with the same supermarket before online, it will remember what you've previously bought and suggest these to you in your 'Favourites' or 'Previous orders'.
  5. Click 'add' underneath the item to add what you want to the virtual trolley.
  6. Most supermarkets have a minimum spend of at least £30 before you can get a delivery.
  7. Click 'checkout' and enter your payment details to pay for your items. You may be charged a pre-authorisation payment initially, which reserves funds for a future payment. The final payment will be taken on the day of the delivery, so you only pay for exactly what is delivered.
  8. On the delivery day, you will be told if any items are out of stock and can't be delivered. You will be offered a substitute item but you don't have to accept it.

If you regularly shop with a supermarket online, it might be worth buying a delivery pass or delivery saver. This is a one-off payment, so you don't need to pay for delivery each time. It might also give you priority access to certain delivery slots.

What information will I give when I pay for something?

You'll never be asked for your card PIN (Person Identification Number) when you pay for something online, but you will be asked for:

  • the 16-digit card number on the front of the debit or credit card.
  • the expiry date.
  • the 3 digits on the back of your card, known as the security number, or 'CVV', 'CVC' or 'CVV2' (Card Verification Value).

When purchasing something online you can set up an account with the retailer. Make sure to use a different password for each account, and always use a strong password. Read more about password security.

Sometimes the website or your internet browser prompts you to save your card details for next time – never do this on a shared computer, and make sure your device is protected with a password, PIN or fingerprint log in if you do save your card details.

How do I know if a website is secure?

Make sure that you're using a secure website before entering any personal details. There are ways to spot that a website is secure, including:

  • the website address starts with 'https' – the 's' stands for secure.
  • the address bar is green, which is an additional sign that you’re using a safe website.
  • a padlock symbol in the browser where the website address is (but don't be fooled if the padlock appears on the page itself).
  • a current security certificate that is registered to the correct address – this appears when you click on the padlock.
  • the website ends in '.com' or '' – websites that end in '.net' or '.org' aren't usually used for online shopping.

You can see examples of the symbols to look for on the Google support website. Be aware that a padlock symbol is not an absolute guarantee of safety. If you ever have doubts, it's best to leave the page.

If you're shopping online using a computer, you can also use safe settings in the Google Chrome browser. Read more about safe settings on the Google support website.

What if something goes wrong with my online shopping?

Contact the online retailer if your delivery doesn’t arrive, is damaged, or if the wrong item arrives. They should hopefully arrange a refund or deliver a replacement. If you're not happy with the response from the retailer you should contact your bank.

You should check your bank statement regularly and contact your bank immediately if you notice any unusual transactions. You'll usually be able to get your money back if your card details have been compromised and used by a fraudster.

Contact Action Fraud

Contact the police then Action Fraud if you’re worried something might be a scam, or you think you’ve been scammed. The information you give to Action Fraud can help track down the scammer.