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How to avoid internet scams while shopping online at Xmas

By Ershad Ullah December 15, 2022 | Tags:

Have you received a text message saying you have an account that is unpaid or are you suddenly getting telephone calls from overseas numbers or WhatsApp messages from people you do not know?

The Australian Federal Police is anticipating a surge in scams over the Christmas shopping period, where scammers use legitimate-looking text messages to trick people into handing over personal details which are then sold.

How to avoid internet scams while shopping online at Xmas

During this holiday period, most Australians will shop online trying to find last-minute gifts or bargains, but this is a time when shoppers need to be extra vigilant about online scams.

Many of you may have already been caught up in the Medicare or Optus data breaches and cyber security is becoming an important issue for 2023. Buying online poses additional risks and there are some key things you need to be on the lookout for when you are shopping online or browsing the internet during the holidays.

What should you look out for?

Pricing – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is:

When surfing the internet, it is common to find the same product, service, or experience at varying prices on different websites – an advantage when attempting to compare prices and get the most out of your money. But if something looks unreasonably cheap, that could be a sign that the website or seller is not legitimate and could be a scam to obtain your financial details.

Scamwatch recommends taking extra care this holiday period when purchasing big and expensive items online such as electrical goods, gaming consoles and toys. If purchased from an illegitimate website, these items may not work or may not even arrive at all.

Sellers Online Reputation

When searching websites, it is worth trying to find out how new the website is and whether they have sold many things before. Some websites and products are advertised through social media platforms, but it is wise to do some research first before handing over your card details.

Refer to comments from other sellers or see if there are any reviews available online for extra security but beware that scammers can also write fake positive reviews for their own websites or products.

Online Shopping/Phishing Scams

It is important that you pay careful attention to the following when using your credit card to pay for online purchases:

  • Do not purchase any product or service from a website that does not have the “https” prefix in their URL address. These sites are not secure
  • Ensure the name of the online seller is spelt correctly and not attempting to mimic an actual or reputable business. It is easy to misread a website name e.g for a fake link Note that the first web address is correct
  • Only buy via a secure payment option. If you are paying for goods online at the online checkout, all the online seller needs is your name, postal address and creditcard/paypal number. You should not provide any further information.
  • Phishing emails or call centres staff: In Australia there is a significant rise in the number of scams that involve telephone scams followed up by emails. Professional-appearing emails, websites or call centre staff to convince you that the offer or their business is genuine. They also often pretend to be an organisation like a charity, Centrelink, Australia Post, or another service you may use or want to help.

Buying second-hand goods

Shopping online doesn’t always involve buying new things. You may be looking at second-hand items on a digital marketplace like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. Buying second-hand is very common and often you can find a unique or one-of gift for someone, but it is important to be cautious when dealing with sellers. They often will try to get you to pay via internet banking, money wiring, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, or cryptocurrency.

If you do send money directly to a scammer, it is rare to be able to get it back, so it is important to always conduct your transaction through a secure platform like PayPal, where you have the ability to dispute a charge.

What to do if you have been scammed?

It is important to take steps to protect yourself and your finances if you have been scammed to avoid further losses and you need to consider the following:

  • Stop all communication with the scammer and ignoring any new messages or attempts to contact you. You can block their number or email address on your device
  • Contact your bank or financial institution or visit a branch as soon as possible to notify them and change the passwords for all your accounts if you have handed over any personal information to the scammer
  • Contact the platform you were scammed on to notify them of your circumstances
  • Make a report to your local consumer affairs agency, Australian Cyber Security Centre, or the Scamwatch website to help warn others
  • Tell your friends and family

Note: If the scam involves the theft of your identity, contact IDCARE as they can help you deal with the consequences of identity theft. You can find more about IDCARE here. or call them on 1800 595 160

The eSafety Commission also has a suite of resources and courses on its website to help people improve their skills and confidence to navigate the internet and how to identify and report scams while online shopping. Find out more here

Have a great Xmas and safe online shopping.

Read Also: 120% deduction for skills training and technology costs

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