How to shop online safely and avoid getting scammed
Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

When shopping online follow this simple advice to avoid getting scammed or tricked into thinking you're getting a bargain.

1. Stick with reputable traders 

Sticking with a reputable trader is probably one of the best ways to ensure you don’t get scammed while shopping online. 

So how do you know if a trader is reputable?

Look for things like an easy-to-find customer service number or email address for a start. Once you’ve found the details, give the business a call or pop them an email to try suss them out. 

Sites with bad spelling and grammar errors are also usually a giveaway that all is not right.

And try find out where the company is registered. Don’t assume that a website is registered in a particular country based on its web domain. This is important because your consumer rights will depend on where the company is officially registered.

Not all .ie websites belong to companies based in Ireland, for example.

Legitimate international businesses based in the UK or outside the EU can trade in Ireland via a .ie domain. To avoid misunderstandings, consumers should check the business information on all .ie websites in the About/Contact (Us) sections, and separately in the Terms and Conditions.

If this information is not clearly available, consider shopping elsewhere.

Finally, sites with intrusive ‘pop-ups’ are often ones to be wary of.

2. Check out online reviews 

Trust Pilot, Google Business Reviews and Feefo are great ways of finding out what other shoppers’ experience has been.

Shops with poor reviews should obviously be given a wide berth. 

However, do take the time to read the reviews online properly to find out what the issue is exactly. 

For example a company may get bad reviews because delivery is a bit slow. But that doesn’t mean the business is unreputable and to be avoided at all costs - it just means you need to give yourself plenty of time for delivery.  

3. Use a site checker 

There are various sites you can use to check the legitimacy of a website and whether it's free from malware and potential scams.

One is 'CheckMyLink' which has been built by Munster Technological University Cyber Skills in collaboration with Scam Adviser and An Garda Síochána.

Go to and enter the retailer's address (URL) and CheckMyLink will advise if it is a safe place to shop. 

However no tool like this is perfect so make sure you also use your own judgement and check out a site's reviews and its customer service as outlined above.  

4. Look for a secure connection when paying

When paying online, look for ‘https’ in the URL bar or a padlock symbol – this indicates a secure internet connection and means that the payment information you send is encrypted and therefore less likely to be stolen.

And don't disclose any personal information that is not necessary to complete a financial transaction online. 

5. Avoid public Wi-Fi

Do not under any circumstances use public Wi-Fi when making payments – switch to 3G/4G on your phone if necessary. 

6. Consider using a disposable virtual card

If you’re a customer of Revolut, remember that it offers a great service to help with shopping online safely - disposable virtual cards.

At the click of a button you can create a brand new ‘virtual’ card within the Revolut app, which you can use for one-off purchases online. The card details then automatically expire and your virtual card is destroyed as soon as you’ve used it so even if the website you have shopped with turns out to be dodgy, at least the scammers won’t have access to any more of your money or be able to sell on your card details.

And to make things even handier, a new disposable card will automatically be generated for you as soon as your card has been used and destroyed. 

And don't worry about refunds - if you return something the money will automatically be credited onto your main physical card. 

7. Shop within the EU

If you’re buying within the EU you have consumer protections which you may not have with a site elsewhere. 

For example, by law, you have a 14-day cooling-off period on most goods bought online. And this applies from the date you receive the goods - not from when you make the order.  

Under this rule, you don’t have to give any reason for wanting to return your goods, however you may need to pay for the return of the goods yourself. 

Some goods are excluded from the cooling-off period however. These include:

  • Hotel bookings, car rental, travel tickets and other leisure services
  • Goods that are made to your specifications or that are clearly personalised
  • Audio or video recordings or computer software that has been unsealed by the consumer e.g. DVDs, software installation CDs with the seal removed
  • Goods that are liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly, e.g. perishable goods
  • Gaming and lottery services

If you want to return your goods, you are then entitled to a refund within 14 days. However, for physical goods, a retailer is allowed to wait until it has received back your goods before processing your refund.

But remember, under EU law, sites aren't obliged to offer free returns, even if many do offer this. 

8. Read the T&Cs

Even if shopping within the EU, read the terms and conditions and delivery information carefully before buying. Is delivery guaranteed within a certain number of days? Will you be given a tracking code?

Check what the returns policy is in particular. Are returns free or is there a charge? Are you able to buy something online but return it in store? Are there some items (such as underwear and jewellery) where returns aren't accepted at all?

9. Be mindful of VAT and customs duty

If shopping outside the EU, and this includes the UK now, be mindful of VAT and customs duty. 

It can be quite tempting to buy certain goods like phones and laptops on American sites, for example, as they can be up to half the price sometimes, however you could be liable for VAT and duty on the goods you buy.

For example, when shopping outside the EU, all online purchases will be liable to Irish VAT at up to 23%, while most goods over €150 will also be liable to customs duty - the rate of which changes depending on the product you’re buying. 

There was previously a VAT exemption on goods below €22, but this was removed in July 2021.

You may also be charged an admin fee by your courier or delivery company.

And VAT is charged on the total price (so the cost of the item, plus customs duty, plus admin fee) and not just the cost of the item itself.  

So a laptop which you see on a US site for €1,000 could cost you an extra €400 or €500 when you take into account all the charges to be paid.

Some of the more sophisticated retailers will operate on a “DDP” model – delivered duty paid, which means the price you see at the checkout will be the final price and will include all taxes and duties – but others will leave it to delivery companies here like An Post to collect the outstanding taxes before they hand over the goods, potentially leading to delays not to mention bill shock.  

10. If in doubt, wait it out

If in doubt, trust your instinct and browse somewhere else or spend locally on the highstreet instead. 

11. Don't get duped by dodgy sales tactics 

Sales events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the post-Christmas sales and the 'Summer Sales' are all now ‘big’ events. However research (by the likes of consumer site Which? and others) consistently shows that many items are often just as cheap - if not cheaper - at other times throughout the year.

So don’t feel forced or pressured into buying something big during one of these ‘events’. There's a good chance the item will be on sale again at the same price, or even a lower price, in a few weeks' time.

And remember, a bargain is only a bargain if you needed the item in the first place and were prepared to pay the original price.

12. Be mindful of ‘sale’ prices

Until recently there were no hard rules on the use of sales prices.

Now, however, the sale price must be based on the lowest price a product was on sale for in the previous 30 days, and the discount based on this price alone.

But many retailers are flouting the law.

And don't get tricked by prices with "now'" or "now only" stuck on them without reference to any previous price. A laptop could retail for €1,000 and then have a sticker saying "now €1,200" on it a few weeks later.  

So if you see something for "sale", do some research online on other sites to see what price the item usually retails at. Don’t be duped into automatically thinking the "reduced" sale price is offering good value. 

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