Worcestershire residents are being urged to stay safe when shopping online.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, Worcestershire Trading Standards is reminding people to stay savvy when hunting for bargains.

Millions of pounds are spent during the sales events on Friday, November 24 and Monday, November 27.

But many shoppers end up with less than they bargained for, with many coming to Trading Standards about fake or faulty goods they have been sold online. 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ, is warning that cyber criminals are likely to use AI technology such as large language models to produce more convincing scam emails, fake adverts, and bogus websites.

With this in mind, it is important to stop before you shop and be wise to scams in disguise.

Here are a few tips to stay cyber-safe: 

• Use online retailers you know and trust. Lots of bogus websites appear at this time of year with many advertised on social media.

• Always use a secure form of payment to buy things e.g. PayPal. Never simply transfer money to someone’s account. If you use a credit card for purchases over £100 you will get extra consumer protection.

• Watch out for counterfeit goods which can be unsafe. They’re not always easy to spot but if it is very cheap and not in a place, you’d expect to see such products – don’t buy them. 

Councillor Marcus Hart, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “More people are shopping online from their living room this year.

“So, shoppers must know how to keep themselves cyber safe and understand their rights as a consumer if things do not go to plan.”

There are also a few things to remember if your purchase isn’t as you originally planned. 

• When you shop online you have a 14-day cooling-off period to change your mind and return or cancel most goods or services purchased online from a UK or EU trader. 

• You may have to pay to return unwanted items. 

• If something you buy is faulty or was misdescribed you have 30 days to return it and claim a refund. After 30 days you must allow the retailer to repair or replace it first. These rights apply when buying online or in-store.

To make a consumer complaint or to get advice on your consumer rights, contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service at 0808 223 1133. 

For more online shopping and safety advice visit www.getsafeonline.org