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16 September 2021

Online shopping: top tips to stay safe and shop smart

Take five minutes to arm yourself with expert knowledge on staying safe when shopping online
Which? Team

1. Learn how to spot fake reviews

A recent Which? investigation found thousands of Amazon sellers offering free products in exchange for five-star reviews.

Don't take the overall rating at face value – read some reviews. If you see large volumes of five-star reviews, ask yourself how likely it is that so many people found a product or service faultless? Also check the negative reviews, to see if buyers had common issues.

  • Join Which? for access to thousands of expert, unbiased reviews based on in-depth product testing

2. Watch out for scams

Between April 2020 and March 2021, online shopping scams were up 65% on the previous year, with a whopping £69.9m lost to fraudsters.

We advise extreme caution if you see any deals advertised on marketplaces and social media that look too good to be true. 

If you’re buying from a seller on an online marketplace such as Amazon or eBay, it’s worth having a quick look at their profile. Warning signs to watch out for include foreign seller locations, strange business names and a lack of contact details. 

3. Don’t risk buying a fake or dangerous product

In a recent Which? investigation, 66% of 250 products we bought from online marketplaces were dangerous or unsafe*.

One easy way to ensure you're buying a safe product is to purchase directly from brands you’re familiar with or from retailers you trust. If you’re buying a brand you haven’t heard of, do even more research than usual to make sure it’s safe.

4. Make sure you’re getting the best deal

Last year, we found 98% of the products promoted in Black Friday sales were the same price or cheaper during the six months after the sales event – so there's no need to rush for your credit card when you spot a good price. 

Retailers use a range of psychological tactics to get you to hit ‘buy now’ when you’re online, and time-limited offers are just one of them. The better informed you are, the easier you’ll find it to separate the genuine deals from the duds.

5. Know your rights

In the last year alone, more than 1.8 million people have used Which? advice to help resolve shopping problems.

A cut-price deal doesn’t mean your consumer rights should be given the chop too. You have clear legal protections when you're shopping online, and we can help you understand what these are.

*Investigation conducted in partnership with ICRT