Last year, 28 percent of UK consumers told the IMRG they would do more of their Christmas shopping online. For most people it’s a slick process, but the clamour to secure a bargain means there are also lots of dodgy websites vying for our attention.

Always use an authenticity checker such as mcafee or Web Of Trust when shopping online. An https prefix is also reassuring when you go to pay; this means the page is encrypted. Check for reassuring badges such as Trust-E, SSL encryption to secure the transaction and PayPal secure payment options. If in doubt, ask the e-tailer for details of its privacy and security measures. Being able to call them is a good sign; anonymous email accounts and no apparent office address are not.

Use a credit card to pay for goods with a value over £100, as the credit-card company is insured against rogue retailers. You can claim back money from your credit-card issuer if a product you’ve paid for fails to materialise. Moves are afoot to extend this protection to debit-card transactions, too.

Online transactions are covered by distance-selling regulations that allow you to return an unsatisfactory product at no cost if it proves unsuitable. High-street retailers don’t have to take back unwanted goods (as you should have been able to judge this at the time of purchase). They may instead issue a credit note for unwanted items to the equivalent value.

Faulty goods can always be returned within a set time frame – usually 28 days.

When purchasing, look out for hidden costs such as shipping fees and any admin charges that might be applied. The prices quoted in PC Advisor are checked in advance for such costs and take into account any carriage charges. However, some websites add insurance and extended warranty deals, as well as suggested upgrades, at the point of sale.

Go through a checklist of specifications and confirm you’re buying what you set out to buy before proceeding to the checkout. If you’ve chosen a PC or laptop based on one of our reviews, check that the model name and specification are the same. Manufacturers often sell several SKUs (variations) of a product, placing some with one retailer and others with another.