Online Safety

Don’t get scammed when you surf

Could you get by without the internet? From online shopping to checking your finances – the internet has become a major part of our lives. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine life without it.

Using the internet’s usually trouble-free – whether you’re bagging a bargain online or checking your bank account. But what can you do if something goes wrong? The Financial Ombudsman Service – the free service with the power to sort out financial problems between consumers and financial businesses – has put together a few tips to help you avoid getting caught out online.

Top tips on what to watch for on the web

  • If in doubt, don’t give it out. Never give out your banking, credit card or security information - or personal details like your address or date of birth - unless you’re certain the request is genuine. There are lots of phishing scams doing the rounds, where emails claiming to be from banks and other organisations asking for your personal data.
  • Memorise or disguise. Try to memorise your PIN or passwords where possible.  If you need to write them down, make sure they’re appropriately disguised. And never keep this information with your bank cards or by your computer.
  • Pry before you buy. If you’re buying something online, make sure the retailer is legitimate before you pay. And read the small print before you click to confirm. It pays to know your rights, just in case something goes wrong.
  • Too much information?  If you’re a regular user of social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook, or take part in other online activities like blogging –be sure to keep your personal details hidden. Leave just the minimum of information visible on-site. Fraudsters trying to access your accounts can use details such as your birthday or first school to help them beat online security questions.
  • Protect your paper trail. If you print out bank statements and receipts or other documents containing your personal details, don’t leave them lying around. When you’ve finished with your paperwork, make sure you shred it – don’t put it straight in the bin.

Something gone wrong? Don’t panic!

If you find there’s a problem with an online transaction, get in touch with your bank or credit provider and ask them to help you sort things out.  For example:

Bank Accounts: If you spot a payment from your account that you don’t recognise, report it to your bank as soon as possible – they’ll look into things for you.  Check your statements regularly to keep on top of things.

Credit cards:  If you’ve paid for something with your credit card but the goods don’t arrive – or aren’t up to standard – you may be protected legally, depending on the circumstances and the sum involved. Speak to your card provider if you hit a problem.


If you’ve made a complaint about a financial business but are still unhappy, the Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to help. Contact the ombudsman at or call 0300 123 9 123.