Smart online shopping

m When you shop online, make sure you are smart about the whole purchasing process-know who you are dealing with, know what you are buying, be confident you will get what you have paid for, and ensure that your account and credit card details are being dealt with safely.

There are many advantages to shopping online-you can shop at any time, you don't need to worry about parking and your purchases are delivered to your door! Online auctionscan be a lot of fun and can also help you find good deals.

But there are some security traps to watch out for. Use your common sense and some simple steps to ensure your online shopping is as safe as possible.

Top tips

  • Be wary if the website looks suspicious or unprofessional or makes unrealistic promises. Bargains which look too good to be true often are.
  • Know what you are buying. Read the description of the product carefully-check the size, colour, value and safety of the product.
  • Read all the fine print. This includes refund and complaints handling policies.
  • Check the currency, postage and handling and other charges - there may be extra charges you aren't aware of. Only pay via a secure web page-one that has a valid digital certificate.
  • Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse. Never send your bank or credit card details via email.
  • Always print and keep a copy of the transaction. Keep records of any emails to and from the seller.
  • Always conduct transactions within the auction website. Avoid private contact or payment directly with buyers or sellers-scammers will often use this ploy to 'offer a better deal.

On this page

  • Use your common sense and trust your instincts
  • Before making the purchase
  • Making the payment
  • Online auctions

Fact sheets and resources

Take the Shopping Quiz!Shopping Quiz - Test your knowledge about how to be a smart shopper during online auctions.


nThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website has further information on shopping online. If you can want to make a complaint or report an incident contact the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.


blackbookThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a booklet titled The Little Black Book of Scams, which has a section (in the third section of the booklet) on how to deal safely with online auction sites.


accc_tipsAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission - Tips for a fine time shopping online







Use your common sense and trust your instincts

Most shoppers know the warning signs to look for when buying something in a shop-the same applies to shopping online. Be wary if:

  • the website looks suspicious or unprofessional
  • the website is offering bargains which look too good to be true, they often are, or
  • you are not confident about their use of your information or that you will get what you pay for.

Before making the purchase

  • Know who you are dealing with-check that contact details are correct.
  • Know what you are buying-read the description of the product carefully-check the size, colour, value and safety of the product.
  • Read all the fine print including refund and complaints handling policies.
  • Check the currency, postage and handling and other charges-there may be extra charges you aren't aware of.
  • Check the final cost before paying.

Making the payment

  • Only pay via a secure web page (one that has a valid digital certificate) Look for the https at the beginning of the address bar and a locked padlock in the browser. Read more about digital certificates: Understanding digital certificates and why they are important to check (File size: 270Kb)
  • Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse.
  • Never send your bank or credit card details via email-only via a secure web page.
  • Always print and keep a copy of the transaction.

Online auctions

Online auctionscan be a lot of fun and can also help you find good deals.

They also attract scammers. Scammers will often try to get you to deal outside of online auction sites. They may claim the winner of an auction that you were bidding on has pulled out and offer the item to you. Once you have paid, you will never hear from them again and the auction site will not be able to help you.

  1. Always conduct transactions within the auction website and avoid private contact with buyers or sellers-scammers will often use this ploy to 'offer a better deal'.
  2. Keep printed and/or electronic records of all bids, item descriptions, emails to and from the seller, and transaction records or receipts.
  3. If the website uses a feedback rating system, check all comments left by previous buyers and sellers.
  4. Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or credit card (where charge-back can be used).
  5. Only pay via a secure web page (one that has a valid digital certificate).
  6. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, because they can be open to abuse.
  7. Never send banking or credit card details via email-only use a secure web page for payment. For more information see Shopping online.
  8. Always print and keep a copy of the transaction.
  9. Consider using the insurance offered by the auction facility (or another suitable provider).
  10. Check the information on auction websites to help potential buyers and sellers.
  11. Take the time to read the information about ways to reduce the risk on the auction site and the terms and conditions of contracts entered into by bidders and sellers.
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  • Tip:

    Be cautious of emails asking you to click on links or attachments.