Whether we are doing the weekly food shop, booking holidays or
buying that special gift, more and more of us are turning to the
internet to buy goods.
Here are a few simple tips to help you stay safe when you shop
Check website and computer
A secure payment site should have a picture of a closed padlock
somewhere on the page. An open padlock means a webpage is not
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.).
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
Buy only 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 an online phone book. If the
company operates from overseas, you might have trouble getting a
refund or exchange.
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.
Check the fees
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 order. 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
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
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.
Westpac has refunded around $20 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 release.
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
Ban on excessive surcharge fees
From 1 September 2016 large businesses will be banned from
charging excessive payment surcharge fees on
debit, credit and prepaid card transactions. This
means a business cannot charge a customer more than what it
actually costs them to process a payment. These rules will apply
to other businesses from 1 September 2017.
For more information see credit, debt and prepaid card surcharges
on the ACCC's website.
Check the warranty,
cancellation and delivery dates
Read the terms and conditions of your purchase before you
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.
Pay safely and keep records of your
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.
Don't pay for the goods outside the website's official payment
system. Scammers will ask you to pay up-front via money order or
international wire transfer. They will also send you to fake
payment website so always check the URL.
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
Check your bank statements
Check your credit card statement every month to make sure your
purchases are correct and there are no charges for things you
Contact your card provider or bank as soon as you notice
anything unusual. See more information about unauthorised
transactions on your account.
Protect 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
compulsory to buy the product.
Keep your personal information safe when
you shop online and always use official payment options.
Last updated: 12 Sep 2016