Brits appear to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to online shopping and staying safe, as new research from Nationwide Building Society in the run-up to Christmas suggests many are more concerned with bagging a bargain online than protecting themselves.
A quarter (25%) of people believe bagging the cheapest bargain is the most important thing when shopping online, above maintaining their personal security. This desire to get goods at rock-bottom prices is particularly prevalent among younger people (35% of 16-24s and 31% of those aged 25 to 34).
More than two in five (44%) say they would buy something on a website or from a company they've never heard of if it meant they could try and get a good deal on a purchase. Men are more likely to buy from an unknown site with around half (49%) admitting this compared to just 40 per cent of women.
To worry or not to worry:
When it comes to worrying about being the victim of a scam, there is a clear divide with 52 per cent concerned they will be the victim of a scam when shopping online, compared to 48 per cent who don't. Despite their eagerness to grab a bargain, it is younger people who worry more with 57 per cent of 16-24s and 61 per cent of 25-34s worrying, compared to just 43 per cent of those aged 55 and over.
The run-up to the festive season does appear to increase people's concerns with more than half (51%) admitting that they worry more about falling victim to scammers as Christmas approaches and they are shopping online for presents.
Despite the risk of not being able to get money back should a purchase turn out to be a scam, nearly a third (29%) admit they have paid for something online by transferring the money directly in another person's account. This rises to more than two in five (41%) of those aged 16 to 24, compared to just 15 per cent of 55+. Around one in five (19%) also admit to having been pressurised, for example by the seller, into making an online shopping purchase quickly. This is despite nearly one in five (18%) confessing to not doing any research into the seller before making any purchases on sites such as eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, while 41 per cent said they do, but only sometimes.
Despite some Brits admitting they would make purchases on websites they've never heard of, nearly a third (31%) of those polled admitted they don't know how to check if a website is secure.
Of those who say they do know how to check if a website is a secure, 83 per cent know to check for a padlock symbol in the browser window containing the URL, whereas only two thirds (66%) know to check to see if the website begins with the secure 's' in https.
When it comes to online shopping, three quarters (75%) use general shopping sites, such as eBay, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon. Nearly three in five (58%) will use a general company site (e.g. Tesco, Next, John Lewis), while 16 per cent will visit a specialist website, such as Autotrader.
Stuart Skinner, Nationwide's Economic Crime Director, said: "Anyone, young and old, can become a victim of a purchase scam because they can occur on any type of purchase, so it's worrying to see from our research that some people prefer to bag a bargain rather than protect themselves from being a victim of a scam.
"Nationwide, like other financial institutions, has a range of measures in place that are highly successful in protecting our members from becoming fraud victims. However, scammers are always looking for ways to deprive people of their hard-earned cash and will often use the guise of Christmas to step up their efforts to take advantage of people looking to purchase their presents at the cheapest price.
"It's important to do your research before making that purchase and remember the adage that if it appears too good to be true then it often is. Straying from traditional shopping sites can bring additional risk, particularly when using social media. While it can often be awash with attractive adverts and offers, which could potentially provide you with a bargain, there is a bigger chance of you falling foul of a scam."
Nationwide is advising people shopping online to check they are using genuine websites by searching for the padlock in the browser and that the website URL starts https. It is important to pay by card as that offers more protection than transferring money from one account to another. And make sure that you don't hand over money until you receive the goods or risk being left disappointed at Christmas if gifts for loved ones don't arrive. However, should the worst happen, people may be able to reclaim money back via a Chargeback for debit and credit card purchases or through the Section 75 rule under the Consumer Credit Act on goods purchased, although Section 75 will only work on credit card purchases costing more than £100 each.