It’s the most wonderful time of the year — especially for Scammers!

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Record numbers are expected to log-on for Christmas shopping this year creating opportunities for retailers and bargain hunters, but also presenting opportunities for fraudsters.

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Trading Standards Service has some important advice for Internet shoppers to ensure they are aware of their rights and what they can do to protect themselves.

Councilor Colin Smyth, Chair of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee warns: “Shoppers should remember when shopping online that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is. We know how busy Christmas can be so we don’t want to overwhelm people with complicated advice but we urge shoppers to follow Trading Standards’ basic tips. It’s easy to get carried away when you spot a bargain online but take a step back and think before you buy it. Trading Standards receives regular complaints from online shoppers who have inadvertently bought counterfeit goods, or the trader they paid has disappeared or the goods they purchased never arrived. So if you can’t find something on the High Street that you can see before you buy and you do decide to purchase something online, Trading Standards want to help ensure that you are protected from bogus sellers and other forms of cyber-crime.”

Trading Standards are urging consumers to follow their ten basic Internet shopping tips:

If possible, buy from Internet traders you know and trust.

For unknown traders, search for reviews online or check out their customer ratings.

Make sure the trader has a genuine address and landline number you can contact them on if things go wrong, not just an email address.

You have a 14 day cooling off period to change your mind and return/cancel most goods or services purchased online from a UK or EU trader.

You can return faulty or misdecribed goods free of charge to a trader, but you may have to pay to return goods if you simply change your mind. Check refund and return policies.

Always use a secure form of payment to pay for goods or services, for example PayPal. Never simply transfer money.

Don’t enter your card details in to a website unless it is secure. Look out for the padlock sign and ‘https’ in the web address.

For purchases over £100, if you have a credit card consider using it for the purchase to give you extra consumer protection.

All orders must be confirmed in writing. Print out your order and receipt, and keep any terms and conditions that appear on the web site, just in case of any disputes or problems later on.

Watch out for bogus websites selling counterfeit branded goods and charging genuine prices and be cautious of very low price offers. For links to genuine retailers visit: https://www.brand-i.org/. Brand-i is a shopping directory supported by the Trading Standards Institute, so you know it’s a reliable source of information.

For further information and advice visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/consumer/ or telephone the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.