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How to shop safely for Christmas

It’s important to guard against scams when shopping online for Christmas.

As the cost of living continues to rise, we’re all eager to grab a bargain. 

But do take care. Whether you’re new to online shopping or have been doing it for years, here are some tips to help you stay safe over the festive season.

How to shop safely online

While most retailers are trustworthy, it's all too easy to fall victim to scams. Fraudsters can set up fake websites impersonating genuine retailers.

Here are some ways to help keep yourself safe when shopping online, no matter what you’re buying:

  • Use safe sites when shopping and avoid clicking on links by visiting the website directly
  • Research the retailer online to make sure they’re legitimate
  • Research the item you want to buy and be vigilant when using social media or other online marketplaces
  • Check the returns policy and that the company has contact information
  • Make sure your device’s operating system is up to date
  • Make sure your connection is secure, look for a padlock icon in the search bar
  • Avoid shopping on public unsecured WiFi
  • Create strong passwords and use a different one for each website that asks for your personal or financial information
  • Avoid giving out personal information
  • Never share security details or one-time passwords, no matter who asks for them
  • Take extra care if a deal seems too good to be true, especially if you’re being encouraged to buy quickly before a deal expires

How to pay safely when shopping online

Different websites will offer different ways to pay. Think about which payment method works best for you.

Paying by debit card

Using a debit card to buy things may be useful if you’re working to a budget. You’ll be spending money directly from your current account – meaning you won’t be charged interest, as long as you’re not using your overdraft.

However, if you’re using a debit card, you may not be protected in the same way you are when using a credit card. 

Paying by credit card

Paying by credit card can offer more protection on what you buy. If the item you’re buying costs between £100 and £30,000 and you’re paying by credit card, even partially, it may be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If you’re using a credit card for your Christmas shopping, the key thing is to keep track of how much you’re spending and plan how and when you’ll pay it off.

Avoid the temptation to overspend on a credit card, as it could leave you in debt. You may be charged interest if you can't pay it off in full each month.

Find out more about how to avoid credit card charges.

Using a third party payment service

If you’re using a third party such as PayPal, make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions to see what protection you have for what you’re buying.

Some, like PayPal, Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy, also offer ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) schemes. These allow you to spread the cost of what you’re buying over a set number of instalments, which are often interest-free.

Remember, BNPL is a form of borrowing that you’ll need to pay back, so it’s important you can afford the repayments. You could be charged for late or missed payments, which can harm your credit score.

Find out more about buy now pay later.

Paying by bank transfer

If a seller asks you to pay for something by bank transfer, this may be a scam. You should be very suspicious and consider paying in a different way. 

If you’re with HSBC and you’ve given your security details to someone, call our security team on 03456 002 290

Stop, challenge, protect

If you're contacted out of the blue by phone, email or text:


Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.


Could it be fake? It's OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or make you panic.


Check with someone you trust, such as a friend or family member and contact the company directly.

You can get more advice on how to guard against fraud from the government-backed national campaign Take Five.