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Online shopping

Shopping online for goods and services can be safe, as long as you take a few basic precautions.

Shop on secure websites

Start your online shopping with established and recognised retailers who use secure websites for transactions or, at least, offer secure payment. A secure webpage will have ‘https://’ in the website's address, and sometimes a locked padlock icon in the browser address bar. The padlock lets you know that the information you provide is encrypted (which means that others cannot see it).

Other precautions to take can include reading store reviews, asking friends which sites they have used and checking the reputation of sellers on auction sites.

Auctions, local sell and trade sites

Before you buy something at an auction or on a local sales and trading site, make a few enquiries about the seller. Have they been active on the site for a while? Are there any reviews or comments about them, or even some complaints? What is their sales history?

Be cautious when you collect items and follow these simple rules 

  • go with someone else
  • don’t disclose personal information such as your suburb, mobile number or your relationship status
  • create a ‘shopping’ email address so you can close it down if they misuse it
  • turn off Caller ID before you ring them
  • don’t take cash with you — pay with PayPal when possible or make a direct transfer to their account once you have seen the goods.

Are you getting what you think you are?

When buying goods, double check all details about the goods or services you are buying.

What to check and why

  • product description
  • shipping fees
  • the currency you are paying in
  • terms and conditions of any ‘free’ or ‘limited’ trial services (like fitness or diet planning programs) — to make sure you aren’t agreeing to ongoing payments for something you may not want
  • returns and warranty policy in the terms and conditions
  • can you return the product and if so, for what reasons?
  • do you have to pay return postage, or is this covered?
  • can you return it to a local shop instead?

Safer payment

If possible, use PayPal or direct bank transfer, check that the site is reputable (and well-used by others) and that it has the padlock icon and ‘https://’, so you know your data will be encrypted.

Where do I go for help
and more information?

Find out about common scams, how to spot scams and report them at Scamwatch, particularly the ‘Get Help’ area on the home page.

Find out more about safe online shopping at the Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online website.

Last updated: 10/07/2023