Nominet is warning web users to be extra careful when shopping online, following the internet body's part in an operation that helped take down 1,219 scam websites in the run up to Christmas.

Nominet, which is responsible for domain name registration, worked with the Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) on Operation Papworth, which focused on websites selling counterfeit designer goods - from Tiffany Jewellery to GHD hair straighteners.

"Those who shop on the web need to remain careful so they do not get ripped off with scams or fake or non-existent goods," said Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet.

Cowley added that while Nominet is committed to making the internet a safe place, there are some basic steps that web users can take to protect themselves when buying goods online.

Nominet suggests researching a company before committing to buying goods from a website.

"Look for a telephone number for the company. Ring it and check it works if you have any concerns," said Cowley, while also reminding web users to use sites beginning with the prefix 'https://' and that display a padlock symbol on the page where credit card details or personal information need to be entered - as this indicates the site is secure.

"Take a few minutes to search for the company on the internet and check their reputation. Trust your common sense and if necessary buy elsewhere."

Cowley also warned users not to assume a company is based in the UK because it has a .uk web address.

"Visit the Nominet WHOIS site to check where the website is registered. If the company is based outside the UK you might have to pay import tax on any goods you purchase," she said.

Likewise, just because a website claims it is an official reseller of brand-name goods, it may not be. Users should visit the brand's website to check the reseller is legitimate.

Cowley cited GHD, a company that manufacturers hair straighteners, as a good example.

"GHD has a dedicated section on its official web site outlining fake GHD web sites. Goods should not be purchased from any of the sites on that list."

Nominet also urged online shoppers to share their knowledge of both reputable websites and duds with friends and family to minimise the risk of other getting scammed, as well as having a dedicated credit card for online shopping as "it is easier to claim money back using a credit card than a debit card".

Finally, Cowley advised web users that had been scammed to report the incident immediately.

"Call your local trading standards office, report the incident and ask for their best advice on how to deal with the situation."

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