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How to buy safely online

Ben Smith
Ben Smith

Shopping online isn’t new but it’s growing constantly. Several months out of the last two years have seen us all trapped at home, unable to browse the shops on the high street so even more of us have turned to the internet for a bit of retail therapy. But if you’re new to it - or even if you’re an old hand – it can be a daunting place, especially with the number of scams knocking around.

So how should we shop safely?

Secure websites

First off, when browsing any website, particularly one where you might be spending money, look for this little padlock logo. It’s often next to the url, or address, of the site you’re visiting.

Sometimes that lock is in the bottom left of your screen, depending on the browser you’re using. The site’s address will also start with https, instead of just http. That means the site, like ours, has SSL Certification meaning information passed between you the user and us the website is protected. That information includes credit card details so it’s vital for any e-commerce website but it’s pretty standard nowadays for most mainstream websites.

If a site doesn’t have the padlock then your information is vulnerable to anyone out there so be wary.

Trustpilot

You probably wouldn’t buy an expensive TV from a bloke you’d never met who you bumped into round the back of the bus-station. He might be offering an amazing deal but it’s unlikely you’ll get a working box. Well, the same goes for the internet. Don’t buy from shady-sounding sites with no Trustpilot presence. Reputable companies such as ourselves will have a good score on Trustpilot and be open about their rating. If you haven’t heard of Trustpilot, it’s an independent site that hosts reviews from consumers, giving businesses the opportunity to improve their service and helping shoppers avoid scams. Not to brag or anything, but William George has a Trustpilot score of 4.8 out of 5 and is considered excellent, thanks to the reviews we’ve received and our second-to-none customer service.

Trade associations

Still unsure if you can trust a website? Check if it’s part of a professional body or trade association. William George is part of the National Auctioneers Association – that means we abide by their standards and practices. We also vet vendors to make sure they operate to the same values we do.

Auction safety

While we’re talking about William George, it’s worth pointing out that we have state-of-the-art technology to keep your details safe and protect consumers from fraud.

When buying from a vendor through our website, we hold on to the money until the buyer has received their goods – giving you added piece of mind. Not only that, unlike most online marketplaces we have actual people you can talk to if you’re unsure of what’s happening or on the rare occasion something goes wrong.

Avoid random links

There’s been a huge rise in the number of scams affecting delivery services such as Royal Mail and Hermes, with Which? reporting it had received 2,000 reports of attempted scams in the last year.

Victims are often sent a text saying their parcel is stuck at an office and they need to pay for re-delivery. People are directed to incredibly convincing websites and are persuaded to enter their details and hand over cash. The scammers have been focussing on delivery firms recently because many of us have been expecting packages but retailers are not immune to the problem. If you receive an unsolicited email with a link to an online store, consider searching for it separately and finding the address yourself. Then you can avoid being redirected to a fake site.

Password safety

If you’re using the same password for all your shopping accounts, email log-ins and social media, you’re incredibly vulnerable to being hacked. Don’t just think victims of hacking are the rich and famous – we’re all potential targets. Consider using a password manager which you can download or, if you’ve got a modern up-to-date browser, use its function to suggest passwords and save them. The National Cyber Security Centre has an excellent online guide to password safety that would benefit all of us.

Use a credit card

Where you can, use a credit card rather than a debit card. If your purchase is over £100 and under £30,000 you get some extra protection, for instance if the seller goes bust or the item is never delivered you can claim the money back from your credit card company. That doesn’t apply to debit cards, though if you’re the victim of fraud, then your bank or building society might help you.

Keep your computer up-to-date

Invest in some anti-virus software and remember to download the updates when your browser of choice tells you to. It might be a little bit of an irritation to stop what you’re doing to download the latest version of Chrome – but it’s a lot less hassle than being hacked.

When you update your browser, you’re making sure you’ve got the latest security protocols installed. Anti-virus software will protect you from malware attacks, thwarting criminals before they’ve got your bank details. It’s worth it.

Don’t drink and shop

Ok, this one is slightly less serious than the other points, but it’s worth bearing in mind. Who among us hasn’t woken up with a foggy memory of our browsing history only to then, days later, find a pair of hideous (and hideously expensive) shoes on the doormat?! 

You know you're in a safe place here at William George, so if you're in the mood for shopping, head over to our live auctions right now!