The festive season is one of the busiest times of the year for retailers and consumers alike. But it’s also a busy time for online scammers.
We’ve all been there. Packed car parks, long queues, pushy crowds. If you want to avoid the stress and mayhem of your local shopping centre this Christmas, online shopping has considerable upside. Only trouble is, the heightened online reactivity also attracts plenty of scammers who think all their Christmases have come at once. There’s also the potentially expensive issue of getting stuck with online purchases that fail to meet your expectations, are dangerous and/or illegal, or perhaps don’t even work.
To ensure you and your family don’t lose the Christmas spirit through a bad online shopping experience this year, here are some things to keep in mind.
Shop only on secure websites
Clearly some websites are a lot easier to identify as being secure than others. However all secure websites will have two key markers:
- An image of a closed padlock – this is usually located in the top left of your browser URL
- A web address that begins with ‘https://’ – if the URL leaves out the ‘s’ and begins only with ‘http://’ be very careful.
For a website to be truly secure, it must have both of these important markers. If you can’t see them, never give out personal information such as your credit card details, account numbers or passwords.
Only provide relevant information
Keep records & keep checking them
It may seem a little unnecessary. But be sure to always take note of any reference numbers associated with your purchases and either print or take screen shots of your receipts. If you don’t receive either of these things at the time of purchase, follow up with the business concerned immediately. A day or two later it’s also excellent online protocol to check the receipt against the amount that is actually charged to your credit card or debited from your account to make sure they match.
Be alert to scammers
You’d be amazed just how sophisticated scammers have become in 2019 and the incredible lengths they’ll often go to in pursuit of their illegal gains. While it can be very difficult to tell some online scams from legitimate business offers, it pays to keep your wits about you at all times and employ a healthy dose of digital suspicion. As they say, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. To help, scamwatch.gov.au is a great resource for staying up-to-date with the latest online scams to watch out for.
Shop only with reputable businesses
True, just because you’ve never heard of a business before doesn't mean it’s bogus. But until you’re confident it isn’t, be careful. How can you tell if a business is reputable? Some of the better indicators include:
- You’ve heard of the business
- It’s been trading for some time
- Independent online reviews are positive, especially from other sites and sources you trust
- You or someone you know has used them in the past with no problems
- The company has an actual office including a listed physical street address (i.e. not just a PO Box).
Check the terms & conditions
One of the biggest downsides of shopping online happens when something goes wrong. For example, what if the product you buy turns out to be faulty? Breaks in transit? Doesn’t fit? Isn’t what you ordered? Or maybe doesn't even arrive at all? It’s often far more complicated than shopping in the real-word, so before making an online purchase make sure you understand the seller’s terms and conditions. Be particularly aware of the processes/costs for returning an item and how to go about getting a refund should you need one. As they say, buyer beware.
Watch out for hidden costs
There are plenty of bargains to be found online. But always be careful to look beyond the purchase price alone. While the actual product might seem cheap, hidden charges like shipping and postage fees, import taxes, service fees and currency conversion rates if you’re shopping overseas can add up fast. In some cases you may find it’s much cheaper to buy from a local shop after all.
Be careful if you’re buying from an overseas site
When you shop with an overseas website you’re largely on your own. You’re unlikely to be protected by Australia’s consumer laws, so in order to protect yourself there are plenty of questions to consider. Is the product legal in Australia? Will the manufacturer’s warranties apply in this country? Does it meet current Australian safety standards? Do you need an import permit to bring it into the country? Will any import taxes apply when it arrives?
If you’re unsure, especially if the value of the product you’re buying is quite significant, it’s an excellent idea to double check long before you click on the ‘BUY NOW’ button. For questions relating to the importing of goods visit www.border.gov.au
General Advice Warning
The information provided is to be regarded as general advice. Whilst we may have collected risk information, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. We recommend that you consider the suitability of this general advice, in respect of your objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it. You should obtain and consider the relevant product disclosure statement before making any decision to purchase this financial product.