Protecting yourself from online shopping scams

In a world where we can do so many things online, it’s super important to be mindful of scams – especially when buying online. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself safe from online shopping scammers.

What it looks like

In 2020, coronavirus has led to more people shopping online. Scammers have taken advantage of this trend by setting up fake websites and deceiving people into buying from them. If you’ve placed an order through a scam website, you might receive a fake, low quality product compared to what was promised, or nothing at all.

Classified scams are a subset of this type of scam, where scammers pose as genuine sellers, posting fake ads on either a classifieds website, newspaper, or via email or social media.

Things to keep an eye out for

  • You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true – be wary of offers like luxury items or popular brands for unusually low prices
  • Websites that don’t have privacy policies, T&Cs, refund information or ways of contacting customer service
  • A sense of urgency – scammers often try to pressure you with ‘limited offers’ or end-of-sale ‘countdowns’
  • Online stores or ads that request you to use non-secure payment methods. These include wire or bank transfers, money orders, preloaded gift cards and electronic currencies like Bitcoin. Using these methods can make it hard to recover lost money.

How to protect yourself

  • Go directly to online stores using your web browser, instead of clicking an email or social media link
  • Check reviews of the store and its products on Google
  • Read the comments on a store’s social media ads to see what other people are saying about them
  • Regularly check your statements. If you’ve been shopping online, keep an eye on your transaction history and report anything suspicious as soon as possible. A small, unauthorised charge can be the first sign of credit card theft – scammers often do it to check if your account is active
  • Think twice before connecting to free public Wi-Fi networks. Cybercriminals can lurk on public networks and intercept your activities, or even set up rogue hotspots for you to connect to, so never shop or bank online using public Wi-Fi
  • Make sure your computer’s anti-virus is up to date before shopping or browsing online
  • If you need to create accounts with online stores, make sure you use strong and unique passwords – don’t reuse your internet banking, email or social media passwords
  • Generally, debit cards don’t offer the same level of buyer protection as other payment methods, so it’s recommended to pay with a credit card or payment system (e.g. PayPal).

Tips for shopping for second-hand items from social media or online marketplaces

  1. Ask as many questions as possible upfront
  2. Look at the seller’s profile and past feedback
  3. Never share your bank account details or passwords, or transfer a deposit without seeing what you’re buying first.

Think you’ve been scammed?

If you’ve lost money as a result of a scam, call us immediately on 13 17 19 – we’re here 24/7. You can also…

Report it

Visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Reports may be referred to the police for possible investigation.

Change your login details

If you suspect your security has been compromised, change your passwords and PINs straight away. You can also lock your card – see how.

Get further support

Contact IDCARE on 1300 432 273 or through their website. IDCARE is a free, Government-funded service that provides support to victims of identity crime.

Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.

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