How to shop the sales safely: Spotting online purchase and delivery scams

13 November 2023

4 min read


Whether you're shopping for gifts or scouring the sales for bargains, the winter months are peak shopping season. Online shopping can make this more convenient than ever, but unfortunately online shopping scams are more common at this time too. Fraudsters try to tempt you with great prices and trick you with fake messages.

What is a purchase scam?

A purchase scam is when a fraudster tricks you into willingly paying for something (which usually doesn't exist). They might use a fake website, or a scam profile on an online marketplace (like Gumtree, TikTok Shop or Facebook Marketplace).

What are the signs of a purchase scam?

Some potential signs of a purchase scam include:

  • You find a product or service that's very heavily discounted or considerably cheaper than anywhere else
  • A seller asks you to pay by bank transfer instead of using your debit or credit card or the online platform's checkout
  • A website or profile was only launched days or weeks ago but has many positive reviews
  • You receive an email or visit a website but the email or web address domain isn't the same as on the genuine website. For example, '' instead of ''.

How can you protect yourself from purchase scams?

Scammers know how to tempt you with great prices. Remember:

  • Be aware that adverts and pop-ups may open external websites
  • Check that the web address of any website you visit is correct
  • Check whether the advertised price is realistic by looking elsewhere
  • Don't pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you're sure
  • Use your debit or credit card, or a secure online platform such as PayPal
  • Don't pay for high-value goods upfront unless you've physically seen it
  • Search for reviews of the seller and check they're genuine.

Read more about how to protect yourself from purchase scams

What is a delivery scam?

Delivery scammers mostly use very similar tactics. They pose as delivery companies (such as Royal Mail, DPD or Evri) and:

  • They say that they've been unable to deliver a parcel (which you may or may not have actually been expecting)
  • They ask you to click on a link in the message to rearrange the delivery
  • The link takes you to a website which asks for detailed personal and financial information before they can rearrange the delivery.

These messages can look very real, but scammers will use this information to steal your money or try to scam you another way. No genuine organisation will ask for this kind of information to reorganise a parcel delivery. If you're ever unsure, use a company's official website and tracking services to double-check what's happening with your parcel delivery.

How can you protect yourself from delivery scams?

Scammers know it can be hard to keep track of your deliveries. Remember:

  • Be very cautious of unexpected messages from unknown sources
  • Never click on links or open attachments in suspicious emails or texts
  • Ask someone you trust for advice if you're not sure.

Find our more about common fraud threats and how to avoid them.

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