How to avoid online shopping scams
Every year, shopping events such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Boxing Day sales delight shoppers with amazing deals. While these offers create urgency and excitement for consumers, it’s also an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of those hoping to strike a bargain.
In 2022 alone, Australians lost $9.26million* in online shopping scams according to Scamwatch. These numbers continue to increase every year as scammers become more and more sophisticated in their methods to target a wider range of customers.
Here, we’ve put together some quick tips to help you stay safe when you’re on the hunt for these amazing deals.
1. Watch out for the 'too good to be true' scams
If you come across any offers where a product is being sold at a fraction of its usual price, it’s a red flag and you’ve probably stumbled onto a ‘too good to be true’ shopping scam. Scammers will set up fake online shopping sites to offer popular items, such as designer handbags, clothes and electronics, at prices that seem too irresistible for shoppers to pass up.
Trust your gut - if something feels too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Choose stores that use secure websites when shopping online
Check the beginning of the web address - does the URL begin with 'https://'? This shows a secure connection and that any information you provide is protected by encryption. Is there a padlock symbol to the left of the URL? This visual cue indicates a secure connection between your browser and the website, adding another layer of security. You can click the padlock to check details of the site’s security certificate.
These two signs indicate that your personal details and payment information are less likely to be at risk of being intercepted by cybercriminals. It doesn’t mean that the site isn’t a scam. Scammers can and do create fake online stores with these features to increase the legitimacy of the site, so you’ll still need to be cautious and not judge the website’s authenticity based on these two factors alone.
3. Study the seller's website and check the website authenticity
If you’ve clicked through from social media ads and landed on an unfamiliar website, make sure you:
- Read reviews from many online shoppers. Sometimes only ‘good/5 star’ reviews can be a red flag
- Review the seller’s contact details; head office address, phone number, email and verify these using Google search
- Check to see if there is a complaint process
- Understand whether there is a returns policy or ‘About us’ section
- Search for the seller on social media to see if they have a legitimate profile
- Check the age of the website by using a domain age checker to see if it is a newly created website.
Use a website authenticity checker and make sure you feel comfortable before checking out your cart to avoid online shopping scams.
4. Use secure payment services such as your Credit Card or PayPal
Most credit cards offer a fraud protection guarantee, so you won’t be liable for any unauthorised transactions or purchases that you didn’t make. However, a lot of guarantees don't cover scam purchases, so it's important to keep this in mind.
For additional peace of mind, check if your bank offers any features that could make life harder for scammers trying to intercept your card details.
Remember it’s a good idea to steer clear of payment methods like gift cards, cash, currency exchange offices or cryptocurrency, as they may not offer similar protection or allow you to dispute a transaction.
5. Never store your financial information with an online store
Consider whether you need to save your card information on a browser or website when you're checking out. If the security of the browser or store is compromised, your personal or financial information could be exposed and misused, leading to unauthorised transactions or identity theft. Be sure it is a site you trust, that you have read the terms and conditions and that you understand how your information is stored.
If you are unsure or don't regularly shop with the store, do not save your information - instead enter your details manually each time it is needed.
6. Monitor your credit and bank statements for signs of fraud
It’s good practice to regularly check your bank statements. By doing so you can spot any unauthorised transactions, irregular charges, or suspicious activities, and contact the relevant parties as soon as you see them. This will make a difference in safeguarding your hard-earned money and ensure your accounts remain secure.