Scams and security
Know who you are dealing with
Before buying from an online store or seller:
- make sure you are using reputable, well-known retail websites
- check online forums, feedback and reviews from previous customers
- if the seller claims to be an Australian registered company, look up their ACN – visit the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) website
- if the seller claims to be an Australian registered business, look up their ABN – visit the ABN Lookup website
- check the seller’s policy on returns, refunds, shipping, insurance, warranties etc especially if they are based overseas
- make sure they provide contact details including a street address.
Read the seller’s refund and returns policy
If there is a problem with the item you buy, you may be entitled to return it under the Australian Consumer Law.
The seller may also have their own refund policy with additional refund rights.
For more information, go to:
- Buying from an Australian trader online
- Buying from a private seller online
- Buying from an international trader online
Check the site is secure
- a locked padlock or key symbol at the top or bottom of your browser window (outside of the web page itself)
- a web address that starts with 'https' instead of just 'http' in your browser address bar
- a browser address bar that turns green
- a security policy detailing measures taken to protect your personal details, including:
- the level of encryption used in the SSL process – 40-bit is the minimum
- whether the business sees and stores credit card details, or they are transferred directly to a bank
- how long the business stores credit card details and how it protects them against external hackers and its own employees.
Keep your money safe
Think twice before paying directly into the store or seller’s bank account before you receive the item. It is safer to use your credit card or an online payment service such as PayPal or BPAY, because you can dispute the charges if there is a problem with the item, or if it does not arrive.
For expensive items, consider using an escrow agent, which is an independent third party who holds a payment in trust until you receive and accept the item. For more information, visit the eBay website.
To protect yourself against online shopping fraud:
- never send money by ‘wire transfer’ for online shopping. Scammers use wire transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram to get money fast and once it’s been collected you can’t get it back;
- do not send your credit card number via email;
- never sign up for open-ended charges against your card;
- when entering your card details, never provide your bank account number as well;
- notify your credit card provider immediately if you become aware of an unauthorised transaction on your account; and
- be aware debit cards do not usually have the same level of protection as credit cards against fraudulent use.
For tips on how to avoid common online scams visit WA ScamNet.
Know exactly what you are buying
Before making your purchase:
- confirm the timeframe for delivery or if possible get a set date;
- make sure there is a picture and clear description of the item;
- if the seller is overseas, check if the item can be legally imported – visit the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service website; and
- make sure you know the total amount you will be paying (including delivery and insurance) in Australian currency – check the currency exchange rate at the Reserve Bank website.
To ensure your item can be easily tracked or replaced, we recommend you:
- have it sent via registered mail
- purchase delivery insurance.
Once you have confirmed your purchase, keep records of:
- any forms you fill in
- the confirmation page and receipt (by printing or taking a screenshot)
- pages in the website outlining the offer you have accepted
- related emails.
Protect your privacy
For simple steps on protecting your privacy, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
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