Ever experienced an (exciting) new online shopping experience? You see a fabulous, one-of-a-kind dress, so you instantly add to cart, select next-day delivery, pay and check out.

But then it hits you: you forgot to check the site's credibility.

You don't know if said company is real. You don't know if you perhaps just got scammed of R500 in under 20 seconds. After just a few clicks, you become increasingly anxious as the hours tick by and you realise it's not actually coming, because something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong with your order.

It's happened to the best of us. 

But you're not. 

In most cases, the missing item gets delivered, but sometimes it fails to make it to your door at all because it has been intercepted by a cunning criminal. And that's not entirely your fault. But there are steps to ensure you're being safe and don't lose money on pay day.

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Ahead of Black Friday - arguably the biggest shopping day of the year which takes places on 24 November, Tshipi Alexander, Head of Consumer Issuing at Absa, shares his tips and tricks on how you can sidestep scammers to make sure you always get your package.

Know where you’re shopping

If you’re thinking of purchasing goods at a new shop, and you are not sure whether it can be trusted, turn to Google.

“Before you buy from any merchant, Google their name and read the reviews of what other people are saying about them. If they are dodgy, other people will have complained about them,” says Alexander.

...look for a ‘lock’ logo in the website URL bar or check that the URL starts with “https” instead of “http”.

Another option is to check out Hello Peter, a South African business review site. 

Look out for security features

Legitimate merchants have a stake in ensuring customers’ information is safe and will have security features in place to protect them, through using One Time Passwords or prominently displaying security logos or certifications from card companies such as Mastercard and Visa.

But you can play your part by making sure the website you’re buying from is encrypted: look for a ‘lock’ logo in the website URL bar or check that the URL starts with “https” instead of “http”.

Protect your PC and mobile device

Personal data has become the new currency for online scammers, so it’s best to make sure both your personal computers and mobile devices are protected with the latest antivirus software. Also, never respond to a spam email offering an online deal – after all, spammers can be scammers.

Stay informed

A simple way to stay on top of all transactions is to register for mobile notifications with your bank so you’re always informed when a transaction is made with your card. You should also read your card statements every month to ensure you aren’t paying for any mystery services.

Safeguard your card details

All someone needs in order to successfully defraud your credit card online is your name, credit card number, expiry date, and CVV number. Never save your credit card details on your PC, never email them to anyone and never let your card out of your sight. 

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Remember, no bank will ever ask you to share your PIN or One Time Password over the phone. “The moment someone asks you for that, know that they’re a fraudster,” says Alexander.

If something looks suspicious, it probably is. Stay abreast of common online scams by visiting these useful websites: Report a Crime, Cybercrime, SAPS  and Crimeline.

And if you think your bank account details and privacy have been compromised, get in touch with your bank immediately, and report the card or change your login details.