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COTA
Safe online shopping

Tips for safe online shopping

Online retail has made shopping easier than ever, but it has also increased the likelihood of your private information ending up in the hands of the wrong person. The security of online purchases has advanced with the pace of online sales. However, you will need to do a bit of due diligence to protect your personal information.

Use Familiar Websites

Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it's less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)-those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that's how they trick you into giving up your info.

Verify Website Security

The variety that's available when shopping online can be dizzying, but it doesn't stop at just the products and prices that are available.

Different levels of security are also available online, and you want to be aware of them. Some online web sites don't offer secure shopping, which means that savvy criminals can capture everything that you enter into a form on those sites, including your personal and credit information. If you're going to shop online, limit yourself to secure sites. You can tell if a site is secure by the URL. A secure web site starts with https:// instead of http://, and will have a small lock icon next to the URL.

Padlock on secure webpage

Don't Shop Publicly

If you plan to do any shopping online, do it at home. At home, you can shop in your pajamas and at any time of the day or night. You also know who accesses your computer at home. If you're using a public computer to do your shopping-at the library, at a cyber café, or at work-you have no control over who might be using that network as well. You also don't have any control over what kind of spyware or malware might be infecting that computer. So just don't do it. Shop at home. It's much safer.

Use Strong Passwords

We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilise uncrackable passwords, but it's never more important than when banking and shopping online. Here are some tips for creating passwords:

  • Use different passwords for each site, especially for you bank.
  • Change your passwords frequently
  • Avoid common passwords such as "1234" or "qwerty". You should also avoid passwords using names of pets or loved ones.
  • Passwords should be a mixture of upper and lower case characters, digits and special characters. Passwords should be at least 8 characters long. An example of a strong password is MA7ApUp#.

Don't Store Information Elsewhere

Many shopping sites, such as Amazon.com's OneClick shopping, offer you the ability to save your credit card information on their servers to speed the shopping process.

It's definitely faster, but there are some risks to maintaining your personal information elsewhere. If a company that you're shopping with has a data breach, your personal information could be put at risk. It takes a little longer, but instead of storing your information on a server over which you have no control, just enter it yourself each time you shop.

Price and selection are two of the best benefits to shopping online. But don't let the benefits lull you into complacency. Take the time to shop securely, and use caution with the sites where you choose to shop. Then, not only can you find great deals, but you can do it without the worry that your identity will be stolen in the process.

Know the product

Make sure you check whether:

  • the product is legal
  • the product will work in Australia
  • any warranties or guarantees offered are valid in Australia
  • the product has an authorised repairer nearby.

Check the contract

Make sure you read and understand:

  • the terms and conditions of sale
  • the refund policy
  • the delivery details
  • returns and repairs policies, including any associated costs.

Check the full cost

Be aware of the full cost of your purchase. Additional costs may include:

  • currency conversion
  • taxes
  • postage and delivery fees
  • packaging.

It might end up being cheaper to buy the product at a local shop.

Buying from overseas

Australia's consumer laws may not apply if you buy online from an overseas business. If something goes wrong, it might be hard to enforce your rights and get your money back. Be very careful about buying things this way.

Find out:

  • if you can get a refund and how to do this
  • if you are ordering from a reputable business
  • if the products meet the safety standards of their country of origin
  • if you have access to after-sale support.

When you buy from overseas, you are importing goods into Australia. You will need to think about:

  • whether the goods are legal in Australia
  • if you need an import permit (check with Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Department of Agriculture and Water).
  • what import duties or taxes apply
  • what the cost will be in Australian dollars.

The Stay Smart Online wegbsite is a great resource for keeping safe on the internet. For more information about online shopping see their web page Selling and Shopping Online.