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When you shop online, be smart about the whole purchasing process. Use your common sense and trust your instincts. Be wary if:

  • the website looks suspicious or unprofessional
  • you're not confident about their use of your information or that you will get what you pay for.

Before making a purchase

  • Do your research and shop around—for example, search for the business or website name to see if there are any reviews or comments about their products or services.
  • Only deal with trusted and reliable businesses and sellers. Know who you are dealing with and check the contact details you have are correct.
  • Know what you are buying. Read the description of the product carefully and check the size, colour, value and safety of the product.
  • Read all the fine print including warranty, refund, complaints handling and privacy policies.
  • Check the currency, postage and handling and other charges – there may be extra charges you are not aware of.

Online auctions

Online auctions can be a lot of fun and can help you find good deals. They also attract scammers. Scammers will often try to get you to deal outside of online auction sites.

Scammers may claim the winner of an auction, that you bid on, has pulled out, and offer the item to you for payment outside the auction site. Once you have paid, you will never hear from them and the auction site will not be able to help you.

  • Always make your transactions within the auction website and avoid private contact with buyers or sellers.
  • Keep printed and/or electronic records of all bids, item descriptions, emails to and from the seller, and transaction records or receipts.
  • If the website uses a feedback rating system, check comments left by previous buyers and sellers.
  • Read the terms and conditions before using an online auction site or entering into any contracts.

Making the payment

  • Double check the final cost before payment.
  • Only pay via a secure web page—one that has a valid digital certificate.
  • Consider using the insurance offered by the auction facility or another suitable provider.
  • Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct bank deposits.
  • Never send your bank or credit card details via email.
  • Always print and keep a copy of the transaction.

A secure web page should include 'https://' at the beginning of the address bar and a picture of a locked padlock in the browser.

Selling online

Business owners should be wary of fraudulent purchases; you could lose a lot of money or your reputation.

Watch for suspicious online orders. Warning signs include:

  • ordering the most expensive products or unusually large quantities
  • an unusual order pattern, late at night or several in rapid succession
  • using the most expensive shipping methods, international orders and shipping to PO boxes.

If you are suspicious:

  • Call the buyer and ask to speak to the cardholder.
  • Ask for proof of name and address.
  • Check dubious card details with your payment provider.

Protect yourself by:

  • considering limiting delivery to credit card billing addresses
  • running credit checks on new business customers
  • verifying payment receipt with your provider (for example PayPal,Visa or MasterCard) before sending goods or providing services
  • using your payment provider's fraud screening program.

Ensure your e-commerce website is secure using current software and your server has a firewall and anti-virus software, especially if you have created your own eCommerce site. 

For further protection, monitor your log files for suspicious activity regularly.

Where to get help

Issue Contact
Report a scam or online fraud
Make a complaint or report an incident
  • your local police
  • the website you bought or sold through
  • your financial institution.
Privacy and data breaches
  • the OAIC
  • the company responsible for the breach.

A full list of useful contacts can be found on the Contact us page.

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