SHOPPERS feeling the pinch this Christmas may be turning to the internet to find better deals on presents.
And while there are plenty of bargains to be had online, experts warn that internet shopping is not without pitfalls.
Those using a search engine to track down last minute gifts are advised to check online safety tips before typing in personal details.
Police have also issued a warning about buying counterfeit goods this Christmas, whether online or in person.
According to the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), criminals are becoming increasingly clever when it comes to covering up fake goods.
Most shoppers are aware of the pitfalls of fake handbags, shoes and clothing – but consumers also need to be aware of fake alcohol, cosmetics, tanning creams and pharmaceuticals such as condoms, pregnancy tests, ovulation kits and slimming tablets.
Detective chief inspector Ronnie Megaughin explained: “It’s bad enough having a hangover when you’ve had a few too many but imagine how you could feel if you’ve been drinking wine or vodka which contains household cleaning agents or even methylated spirits.
“And it’s not even what you buy that you need to think about, but where you buy it from.
“At first glance, bogus websites will appear to be genuine, well-known retailers offering recognisable brands — however, false websites are used by criminals to distribute a phishing attack, sell counterfeit goods, steal credit card details and obtain cash for goods that will never be delivered.
“The best advice consumers can follow is to check out a brand’s authorised and approved sellers and always buy beauty products in particular from a trusted source”.
And, it seems that even legitimate purchases have their pitfalls these days, as East Renfrewshire’s trading standards team issue advice on knowing your rights.
According to senior officer Paul Holland, an automatic money back guarantee is not always in place – so that dodgy Christmas jumper might cause more trouble than you think.
He explained: “Many stores will do this as a gesture of goodwill, but you should not expect it, especially as many smaller shops cannot afford to do this and despite common practices in most high street stores, only the person who purchased the gift has the right to return it”.
Anyone with faulty goods, however, has full rights to an exchange or refund by law, and Paul added: “The extra protection you get from buying goods and services over £100 on your credit card gives great added security when things go wrong.
“Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, credit card companies are jointly liable with the retailer if something you buy is faulty, not as described or fails to be delivered”.
For more advice, or to report a suspected scam, contact East Renfrewshire’s trading standards team on 577 3782 or Glasgow’s team on 287 6681.
Further information on internet safety is available at www.ecrimescotland.org.uk.