Selling and shopping online

When you shop online, be smart about the purchasing process and trust your instincts.

Tip: When shopping online only use secure payment services such as credit card or PayPal. Don’t use wire or account transfers or other unusual payment methods.

If the website looks suspicious and you're not confident about how they’ll use your information or that you’ll get what you pay for, don’t make the purchase.

Learn more about fake online shopping site scams.

Before making a purchase

Start by doing your research - search for the business or website to see if there are any reviews or comments about their products or services.

  • Only deal with trusted and reliable businesses and check that the contact details you have are correct. And remember - if you deal with Australian companies you’re covered by Australian Consumer Law and in a better position to solve any potential problems.
  • Know what you’re 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, handling and other charges – there may be extra charges you are not aware of.
  • If the product doesn’t arrive, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible.

Making the payment

Ready to make a purchase? Take the time to take a few precautions before submitting your payment details:

  • Double check the final cost.
  • Only enter your payment details into a secure web page. A secure web page has 'https://' at the beginning of the address bar and a picture of a locked padlock in the browser.
  • 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.
  • Print and keep a copy of the transaction.

Online auctions

Online auctions can be a lot of fun and can help you find good deals, but they also attract scammers.

A common auction scam: Scammers claim that 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 won’t hear from them again and the auction site won’t 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 making expensive purchases, consider using a reputable third-party escrow service to hold the funds until you receive your goods.
  • 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.

Selling online

You need to be wary of fraudulent purchases when you’re selling online too – your business could lose a lot of money or your reputation could be damaged.

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 your business 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.

If your business operates an e-commerce website make sure your servers are physically secure, running security software and the latest software updates, and monitored for unusual behaviour. Learn more about securing servers in your business

What to do if things go wrong

If you think you’ve been scammed, don’t feel embarrassed or helpless – there are steps you can take to limit the damage and protect yourself from further harm.

  1. Contact your bank or financial institution – if you’ve sent money or your personal banking details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. They may be able to help by stopping a money transfer or cheque, investigating a fraudulent credit card transaction, or closing your account if the scammer has your details.
  2. Report the scam to the authorities – If you have been a victim of a crime (such as fraud) report it to your local police. We would also encourage you to report the scam to the ACCC’s SCAMWatch and ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network).

For additional information on the different kinds of help available, visit SCAMWatch.

Learn more

Use the following resources to learn more about scams and how to protect yourself: