How to protect your money when buying online

How to protect your money when buying online

Online shopping is fun and affordable for kids and teens, especially with the rise of new marketplaces and endless offers from social media influencers selling through various platforms. However, with great bargains come some new risks. Here's how to help your kids to be smart about their online spending and safeguard themselves against risky purchases.

What are risky purchases?

Risky purchases are those buys that have a high potential for financial loss, either because the product or service is not what was advertised or because it isn’t worth the price paid. Some common examples of risky purchases include:


  • Making impulse purchases before you have researched the site or the product

  • Buying from websites that are unknown or aren't trusted (see below)

  • Paying for items without 3D-secure in place (see below)

  • Not understanding which country your purchases are coming from, which in turn then affects delivery, returns and your rights

Look for trusted websites


A trusted website is a legitimate website that you can trust in terms of safeguards for your money. Trusted websites use encryption to protect your personal and financial information from being stolen. This is especially important when entering your card number or other sensitive information.


Trusted websites also have a reputation to uphold and don't tend to sell defective or counterfeit goods.


To ensure you are on a trusted website, look for the padlock icon in the URL bar and ensure the website address starts with "https" (you sometimes need to click on the URL to see the https).


Fake sites try to mimic this padlock, so always research sites and retailers you have never heard of on sites like TrustPilot and Google by checking out a wide range of customer reviews (not just the five-star ones).

How to protect yourself when buying online

Always use 3D secure\OTP code

3D Secure (also known as Strong Customer Authentication, or SCA) is an additional security layer for online credit and debit card transactions. It's designed to protect cardholders from fraud by authenticating them with their card issuer during checkout.


3D Secure redirects the cardholder to a secure page on their card issuer's website. The cardholder will be asked to enter a one-time password (OTP) or other authentication factor. Once the cardholder has been authenticated, they will be redirected back to the merchant's website to complete the purchase.


Most major credit and debit card networks, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and GoHenry, support 3D Secure. 


With GoHenry, 3D Secure is the VISA Secure screen that sometimes pops up during checkout, asking your child to verify your transaction by entering a one-time code sent to the phone number listed on your child's GoHenry account by text. 


You'll know it's a genuine message from GoHenry if it arrives just after you or your child have entered their card details to make a payment online, and it contains the last four digits of your child's card number. 


When your child makes an online transaction that requires 3D Secure, they'll be brought to the Visa Secure screen, where they'll be asked to enter a one-time code sent to their phone. The passcode will only be valid for 10 minutes. Once it has been entered correctly, the payment will be processed as usual. 

Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Scammers often promise mega deals on hot ticket items like iPhones, UGGs, consoles and Nike to lure young customers. Images and reviews make the product sound good, but if they sell a high-ticket item like UGGS RRP £165 for £20, it's highly likely to be fake.


Also, watch out for gamification tactics. Some marketplaces, like Temu, social media sites like TikTok and clothing retailers like Shein, use gamification techniques online and in-app to encourage you to buy more. These will be spin-the-wheel, TikTok reward boxes, signs telling you things are selling out, and even deals promising 90% off to lure you in.

Read the small print around delivery and returns

Take the time to read the small print as it will save you a lot of future hassle. Some sites make it hard to see the delivery, returns, cancellation and refund policies, so always scroll to the bottom of the home page and search for the customer service section. This should give you information on shipping, return and refund policies and terms of use.  If it isn't there, search Google for the retailer's name and shipping or refund info. 


For example, search 'Shein shipping info' and you'll see shipping at its fastest is 7 to 9 business days (at least 11 days). However, it also says the majority of stock is in China, and your order will be dispatched when possible, meaning it could be over the stated time frame.

Know your rights

UK consumers have several important rights when buying online, including the right to cancel for any reason within 14 days of receiving the goods. You do not need to give a reason for cancelling.


  • The right to a refund: If you cancel your order, you must be given a full refund, including the delivery cost. The refund must be made within 14 days of the merchant receiving the goods back.

  • The right to a repair or replacement: If the goods you receive are faulty or not as described, you have the right to a repair or replacement. The merchant must repair or replace the goods within 30 days.

  • The right to a price reduction or final right to reject: If you are unsatisfied with the repair or replacement, you may be entitled to a price reduction or a full refund.


However, sites and sellers based in other countries don't always adhere to the above, so read their terms and conditions and customer reviews before buying to ensure you are safeguarded.


What young people need to know about online marketplaces 


Temu emerged just last year and is the brainchild of China's young self-made billionaire Colin Huang. Since 2022, it has become the most popular free app on the App Store, selling a wide range of products at very low prices. While it's popular due to its low prices on a huge range of goods, there are risks that kids should be aware of before using the platform.


Firstly, Temu has an age restriction, meaning you must be eighteen (18) years old to buy on this marketplace. 


Like Amazon, it sells a vast array of items – from fast fashion and makeup to electronics and homeware. It operates exclusively as a marketplace where sellers, predominantly based in China, sell goods to customers worldwide. 


A particular concern is that customer feedback suggests that Temu's customer service isn’t always reliable. Getting a refund or replacement can be difficult if you are unsatisfied with a purchase.


Some customers allege that Temu ships goods which are counterfeit or fake, and sometimes items don't turn up or take a long time to arrive. Of course, this is not everyone's experience, but knowing the potential risks before using Temu is important. 


Finally, be aware of Temu's policies. Ensure you understand the company's return and refund policy before using the platform.

TikTok Shop

Only users over 18 are supposed to see a link if a creator they follow tags an item in their videos on the TikTok shop. This is to stop young people from making uncontrolled purchases on the site. 


However, with the minimum age for TikTok being 13, some kids don't realise this is the case and buy widely from the shop. There have also been reports of scams on TikTok Shop, such as merchants selling counterfeit products or failing to ship products after they have been paid for. 


The returns policy may also not be robust with every seller, though TikTok provides guidelines for sellers saying:


  • All conditions or terms within a seller's cancellation, return, and refund policy must be clearly displayed on the product detail page and be visible to customers before an order is placed. 

  • Sellers must also ensure that all cancellation policies are compliant with local consumer statutory rights.

  • The approval of a return request does not also approve a customer's refund. Subject to the seller's compliance with applicable law, the refund approval remains at the seller's discretion upon receipt of the returned item(s).

All marketplaces

Unfortunately, there are fake sellers on all marketplaces, including Amazon, Facebook, eBay and Vinted, simply because setting up a profile and selling is easy. To protect yourself, only ever buy from trusted sellers. Read reviews of sellers before you buy from them. You can also look for sellers with a good market reputation.


It’s important to use a secure payment method, as this will give you more protection if there is any fraudulent activity. Avoid paying for items with cash or bank transfer, and if a seller asks you to pay for the item outside the marketplace to save you money, be aware that this is likely to be a scam. Always pay for items within the marketplace so that you have buyer protection. And never send them a gift card as payment. This is another scam, as gift cards can’t be reversed, so you will lose money if you send a gift card as payment.

How GoHenry can help

Teens and kids aren't immune to online scams, which is why GoHenry can help them navigate the world of online advertising, in-app purchases and online spending with our real-time notifications, you can help to keep their money safe by tracking what's being spent and setting limits on where they use their card. Our in-app Money Missions can also boost their financial literacy with bite-sized lessons and quizzes on various money management topics.
Written by Anita Naik Published Oct 9, 2023 ● 3 mins