Staying safe online
Exercising caution when shopping online
The convenience of online shopping has made buying and selling on the internet increasingly appealing. It is important to exercise caution when sharing personal and financial information online. You need to know who you are providing your information to and be confident that they will treat it securely and respectfully.
There are simple tips you can follow when buying and selling online.
- do your research and shop around,
- check quality, warranty, return/refund and complaints policies,
- check the buying and selling tips on the sites you are using,
- keep your personal details private and secure,
- always use a secure payment method,
- never send bank or credit card details in an email,
- never send wire transfers to anyone you don’t know and trust, and
- if you think you’ve been scammed, contact your financial institution and selling platform and report it to econsumer.gov.
- install security software from a verified provider and set it to update automatically,
- offer clear terms and conditions,
- always use and offer a secure payment method,
- avoid bank transfers and direct debits,
- when using a selling platform, make sure it is trusted and reliable,
- beware of scams, including by fake suppliers and customers, and
- independently confirm that payment has been made before supplying goods.
If you have been affected by an online trading scam, or if you are concerned about something that appears on an online trading website you should report it to the relevant site (for example, eBay or Gumtree). Many online auction sites have established reporting procedures to deal with trading scams. If you are not satisfied with their response, you should report the scam to econsumer.gov.
Online trading issues involve scammers targeting people who buy, sell or trade online.
There are many types of scams which aim to rip off unsuspecting shoppers. Online trading scammers may:
- advertise products for sale at cheap prices, and once purchased the products never arrive
- pay the seller a larger amount than advertised, invent an excuse for the overpayment and then request the excess amount be repaid either back to the scammer or to a third party before the seller realises the fraud
- offer ‘miracle’ cures for medical conditions where none exist (especially for weight loss)
- target small businesses and attempt to bill them for a particular service – usually a listing or advertisement – which the business never asked for
- take advantage of natural disasters by impersonating charities requesting donations
- claim your computer is infected with a virus and request remote access to fix the problem, or
- attract you with offers for ‘free’ goods by subscribing to mobile premium services.
Personal and financial information is currency for criminals online.
With your stolen identity, a criminal may be able to access your bank account, obtain credit cards or loans in your name and potentially ruin your credit rating.
Tip: Treat your personal information as you would treat your money—protect it and don't leave it lying around for others to take.
You need to be careful with how much personal information you reveal online. Sharing your address, telephone number, birthday, and other personal information can mean you are at a greater risk of identity theft, stalking and harassment. This includes information you post on social media.
You also need to think about what information you may have online that is spread across multiple sites. Identity thieves can piece together your identity from public information that is available about you online.
Take proactive measures to protect your information
- use strong passwords and don't share them with anyone. Ideally use a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation over eight characters long.
- use a separate email address for shopping, discussion groups and newsletters. If you need to, you can then change this address without disrupting online business activities.
- only share your primary email address with people you know.
- adjust your privacy settings on social networks to control the amount and type of information you want to share.