Online shopping scams

14 November 2023

5 min read

Online shopping can be quick and convenient, and more of us are ordering online than ever before. But it's also more important than ever to be aware of the dangers.

Some of your favourite apps and websites are particularly popular ways for scammers to advertise fake products and services - we often see cases relating to TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Gumtree and especially Facebook Marketplace.

Scammers are more active during the festive shopping season

Cases of online shopping scams increase around the festive season and the Black Friday and end-of-year sales. Be extra wary of deals that seem too good to be true around this time.

Report a scam or a potential scam

Call 159 – this service quickly redirects you to your bank, so you can report scams and suspected fraudulent contact.

Find out when you should call 159

How to protect yourself from online shopping scams

Always take your time and don't let anyone rush you. Scammers take advantage of shopping season, when they know you may be in a rush to buy presents, or you may really want to get (what seems like) a great deal before the opportunity has passed.

Here are some more ways to protect yourself.

Do some research

Shopping online is convenient, but not being face-to-face with a seller and actually seeing the product in person can make it harder to spot a scam and know if a seller is genuine. But you can do some research to get a better idea.

Things to search online for include: 

  • What other people are saying - try searching online for the name of the seller, or for scams relating to the product
  • What the average price of the product is - if the advertised price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Check reviews are real

It's important to check for reviews which are hosted on trusted review websites, such as Trustpilot, or on the seller's profile on the marketplace (such as on Facebook Marketplace or Etsy).

Signs to look out for include:

  • There are no, or very few, reviews - it's hard to know if the seller is genuine
  • There are lots of bad reviews - it might be best to avoid them
  • There are only good reviews, especially if many don't make sense - they may have paid people to leave good reviews, and can't be trusted
  • They only have reviews on their own website - they can make these up themselves.

Avoid bank transfers

Scammers prefer bank transfers because they can easily move the money again before you realise anything's wrong. Unfortunately, this means you may not get your money back if it's a scam.

Where possible, you should:

  • Use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers and auction sites, such as their own payment system or PayPal
  • Use a credit card when making purchases valued between £100 and £30,000, as you'll get Section 75 protection
  • Avoid paying a deposit by bank transfer before you've seen the product in person, especially for high value products.

What an online shopping scam looks like

Criminals carefully research which products are most highly sought after, and which price could tempt you to take a risk. Our customers' stories can help you understand what one of these scams might look like.

Read our stories from victims of shopping scams

How to spot a delivery scam

More online shopping means more deliveries. And keeping track of all your deliveries can be tricky. Scammers are taking full advantage of this by trying to trick you with convincing fake messages about deliveries.

Read more about delivery scams

Scammers are posing as us

Scammers are calling our customers pretending to be calling from The Co-operative Bank. These scam calls are more common around the festive period.


  • Never share your card's 4-digit PIN, or your online banking password, secure key codes or one-time passcodes sent to your phone
  • Never transfer money as instructed over the phone, including to a 'safe' account.

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