Jude McCorry is chair, CyberScotland Partnership

THE festive shopping season is just a click away, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions appearing and post-Christmas sales around the corner.

Sadly, it’s also become a popular season for online scammers. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently revealed that on average online shoppers lost £1,000 per person during last year’s festive sales due to fraudulent activity by scammers.

While the cost of living crisis is likely to see more people than ever take advantage of seasonal sales to make a saving at the online checkout, it’s also just as likely that criminals will be lurking behind every page waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

The good news is, there are some simple rules you can follow to ensure your online shopping experience is as safe as possible. And they apply not just to this special season, but all year round:

• Too good to be true’ deals, usually are: Be wary of adverts coming into inboxes and newsfeeds. View everything with suspicion, whether they arrive by email, text, phone call, or social media.

These "amazing deals" may be for the latest gadgets, tickets for events, or invites; but may be linked to fake websites designed to steal your money and personal details.

If something doesn’t feel right, don’t click on a link; and if you can, report it by forwarding the message to report@phishing.gov.uk via email or 7726 on your mobile.

• Know exactly where you are shopping: A padlock icon in the browser address bar is a good sign of security – so if you don’t see it, don’t enter any personal or payment details. But the padlock alone is no guarantee the website is legitimate.

One of the greatest assets of the internet age is being able to fully research where you’re buying from. Check reviews, ideally on a third-party website, before making any purchases.

Additionally, using credit cards or online payment platforms such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay provides extra layers of protection. If the website isn’t legit, or it gets hacked and your payment details are stolen, your bank account won’t be directly affected.

• Be their guest: Prevent online retailers from storing your details by checking out as a "guest", which vastly reduces the risk of being hacked at a later date.

Make sure any existing retailer accounts use their own distinct password. Using three random words is a great way to make it harder to hack.

• Keep track of your purchases: The risk of scams doesn’t end once you’ve made your purchase.

If you receive an email from a courier you don’t recognise, double-check the details against your confirmation email – especially if they’re asking you to click a link or provide any information.

If you’re ever unsure, contact the retailer or courier company to confirm if the email is real.

Just as organisations are being advised to adopt a “zero trust” approach to cyber security, we as shoppers should be doing the same when shopping online. In other words, don’t let your eagerness for a deal cloud your judgment. Make your list, and check everything twice before checking out online.

More advice on how to stay protected while shopping online can be found on the CyberScotland website