Whether you are doing the weekly food shop, booking holidays or
buying that special gift, the internet has become the place to buy
goods. Here are some tips to help you stay safe when you shop
How to check website and
Stay away from online stores that do not offer secure
transactions. Look for an 's' in the URL after the http to indicate
it's secure (https://www.).
A secure payment site should have a closed padlock on the page.
An open padlock means a webpage is not secure.
Paying with a credit card can also offer you an extra level of
protection, including the right to a 'charge back' if you fall
victim to fraud. Talk to your financial institution if this happens
Make sure your computer is secure by keeping your operating
system and browsers current and use a good, up-to-date security or
Check on the business and the product
Only buy from websites that you know and trust. If you have not
dealt with the business before, do an online search to check
recommendations and feedback from other customers.
Check that the company has a physical address and phone number.
You can check their details on an online phone book. If the company
operates from overseas, you might have trouble getting a refund or
An email address is also useful to know so you can contact them
if things go wrong.
Products that are commonly 'sold' online as scams are
smartphones and tablets, pets, pedigree dogs, horses and saddles,
motorbikes, cars and boats. Be particularly careful when buying
these items online.
Protecting your privacy
Don't give out your personal information unless you know why it
is required and how it will be used. This information will be on
the website's privacy page. If this information is not provided,
don't buy from the website. You should decline to give any personal
information that is not necessary to buy the product.
What are my payment options?
Only pay for goods within the website's official payment system.
Only scammers will ask you to pay up-front via money order or
international wire transfer. They might also send you to a fake
payment website so always check the URL.
Buy now, pay later
Payment services, such as Afterpay or zipPay, are now available
on some websites when you shop online. You can use these services
to delay your payment by pay by instalments (often fortnightly)
over a period of time. Unlike lay-by, you'll get the product
straight away. These services are offered by separate companies,
not the retailer. Find out more about buy now
pay later payment services.
What fees will I pay?
Some websites charge fees for their online service or for using
a credit card. Booking fees, service fees, handling fees, payment
processing fees or shipping could be added to the cost of your
Before you pay for your online shopping, check whether any
additional fees have been added, and consider whether you're
willing to pay them. If you do not want to go ahead, you can cancel
your transaction before you press the payment button.
Ban on excessive surcharges
Businesses are banned from charging excessive payment surcharge
fees on debit, credit and prepaid card transactions. This means a
business cannot charge you more than what it actually costs them to
process your payment.
For more information see credit, debt and prepaid card surcharges
on the ACCC's website.
Should I be
paying international transaction fees?
If you pay with a credit card, you could be charged an international transaction fee if you buy
products from a company that is either based overseas (even if you
buy the product in Australian dollars), or is based in Australia
but processes payments in another country. This fee is generally
calculated as a percentage of the Australian dollar value of the
transaction (usually up to 3.5%).
Even though an online shopping website with a domain name that
ends in '.com.au' might appear to be an Australian business, they
or their bank might be located overseas. This means you could still
be charged an international transaction fee. To check if you will
be charged this fee, read the terms and conditions on the company's
website - or call or email them directly.
You can also check the terms and conditions of your credit card
to find out if and when you will be charged international
transaction fees. Some cards don't charge these fees so you could
think about switching cards if you regularly shop online from
companies with overseas connections.
You can use comparison websites to check the fees and features
of credit cards, but they do have some limitations. See our article
on using comparison websites for
Citibank returns millions in foreign transaction fees
Citibank has refunded around $5 million to customers for not
clearly disclosing the types of credit card transactions that
attract foreign transaction fees. For more information, see ASIC's media
Can I get my money back if
things go wrong?
Read the terms and conditions of your purchase before you buy.
Closely check for:
- warranty, refund and cancellation policies
- expected delivery dates
- the full cost of your purchase including shipping and handling,
currency conversion fees and taxes
If the full cost is expensive then it may be cheaper for you to
buy the product locally. And if a product looks very cheap, be
suspicious. Scammers will give cheaper prices than other sites to
attract victims. Check the price against other websites.
Getting a refund
Keep a copy of any forms, emails, documents or webpages you have
filled in, read or received. They are a record of the sale and will
be useful if something goes wrong. If something does go wrong you
may be entitled to a chargeback. This means a transaction can
be reversed in some cases where the merchant or shop does not
provide you with the goods you paid for.
PayPal purchase chargebacks
If your credit card is linked to your PayPal account, you may be
entitled to a chargeback if you have problems with a PayPal
purchase. However, you must go through PayPal's dispute resolution
process first. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this
process, then you can explore whether you are entitled to a
Mistakes on your bank statement
Check your credit card statement every month to make sure your
purchases are correct and there are no charges for things you
didn't buy. Contact your card provider or bank as soon as you
notice anything unusual. See more information about unauthorised
transactions on your account.
Keep your personal information safe when you
shop online and always use official payment options.
Last updated: 30 Oct 2017