Shopping Online For Holiday Bargains? Here's How To Protect Yourself From Scammers

On Boxing Day and over the festive season, here are ways to spot fake stores, stay safe with new gadgets and protect your personal data online.

The last thing most Aussies want to do on Boxing Day is brave searing heat to join hordes of shoppers running around like lunatics for a sales bargain.

While avoiding crowds at busy malls to shop from the comfort of your home is preferred by many, the risk of being scammed is heightened.

In 2019 Australians lost more money to online shopping scams than in the entire previous year, according to Scamwatch. More than half of reported losses are scams on popular sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace.

Advice on how to avoid scammers from Scamwatch, Stay Smart Online and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is as follows.

Image: Getty

Know Who You're Buying From

It's best to shop from well-known brands you trust and always double-check site information to ensure it's not scammers hosting a fake company website.

Other tips include search reviews from other customers, and read the fine print including warranty, refunds and complaints handling. Also check privacy policies to find out how your information will be used.

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.

Pay Using A Secure Method

It's recommended shoppers never pay by direct bank deposits, money transfers or other unusual methods like Bitcoin as you are highly unlikely to get your money back if you’ve paid a scammer.

Secure payment methods like PayPal, BPay or your credit card are strongly encouraged as there are often dispute resolution processes if needed.

Make sure it is a reputable site with a padlock symbol, but because fraud sites can replicate that symbol, also check for ‘https’ in the URL (not http).

Never click on a link received via SMS to pay -- and never provide payment details over SMS.



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Special Instructions For Buying Tech Gifts

Internet-connected toys, games and devices can have great educational benefits, but they may also expose your child to potential risks.

Some tech gifts may reveal your child’s personal details and location to outsiders and allow other people to contact your child online without you knowing.

The eSafety Gift Guide helps to inform parents and carers about what to look out for with popular tech gifts and provides practical advice on how to stay safe, including setting strong passwords, turning off location settings and limiting the amount of personal information shared.

Sharing Personal Information Online

If you’re signing up for a sales alert or loyalty program or creating an online shopping account, remember your personal information is valuable and should be protected.

Phishing is a common cause of data breaches, so be on the alert for suspicious emails or texts these holidays. Always use strong and unique passwords, watch out for phishing emails or texts, and be aware of what you share online this holiday season to keep your personal information safe.