7 ways to avoid dogdy deals when shopping online

It’s a super busy time of the year and we all know how convenient it is to shop online. But sneaky scammers are ready to take advantage of shoppers rushing to organise gifts and find the best bargains. So, we’re sharing our top 7 tips to help you outsmart the crooks.

1. Make sure the online store is legit.

Scammers have become super clever at creating fake online stores than look like the real one (or sometimes even better than the real one). Always navigate to an online store using your web browser, rather than by clicking a link in an email, text message or social media post. Once you’re on the site, check the company’s contact details to make sure they really exist. Make sure the site lists the company’s name, ABN number, street address, email address, a telephone number and has a contact form or other easy way to get in touch with them.

2. Research the seller.

If you’re buying from a store or seller for the first time, research them to know who you’re buying from. Search online for the product or company name, plus “complaint” or “scam” to see what other people are saying about them. If you are buying from an online marketplace or social networking site, check the seller’s history and read reviews from other people who have bought items from them. You can also see if they have reviews on sites like Product Review, Google and True Local and read comments on the store’s social media ads. Also check for any Facebook groups that unhappy customers have created.

3. Be suspicious of “too good to be true” offers.

You know that old saying, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is”? This is doubly so for online shopping deals. If you receive an email or text message out of the blue offering heavily-discounted items or popular products at super cheap prices, chances are it’s a scam designed to lure you in. You might think you’re getting the deal of the century, when really you’re giving someone your financial info and paying for something that will probably never arrive.

4. Avoid sellers that want upfront “cash” payment.

When you’re paying for an item, be wary of sellers and stores that ask you to pay up-front in cash, in full, via direct bank transfer or through digital currency, like Bitcoin. Always try to use a secure payment service like PayPal and double check that the real PayPal platform is being used. The next best way to pay is with a credit card, if you have one, as most major credit card providers protect online purchases. If you do use a card to pay, a credit card is better than a debit card as it’s not directly tied to your bank account (in case someone steals your card info).

5. Be alert for scammers posing as parcel delivery companies.

Scammers try to take advantage of people eagerly waiting for their online purchase to arrive. So be on the lookout for suspicious emails and text messages that ask for money to release a parcel to you, or ask you to click on a link to supply personal or financial info. Australia Post and other legit parcel delivery companies, will never email, call or text you out of the blue, asking for your personal or financial details, or demanding you pay them money. If you’re unsure whether the email or message is legit, call or private message the company’s customer service team, using a phone number or messenger service you have sourced yourself.

6. Check your payment is secure before you pay.

When it’s time to pay for your items, check that there is a “closed padlock” icon in the browser’s address bar. Also make sure the store’s website URL begins with “https” (the “s” is the important letter here). This indicates that the communication between your device and the shopping site is encrypted (unable to be easily intercepted or read). If possible, use a secure payment system like PayPal, making sure to select “payment for goods” rather than “family and friends” (if given the option) to ensure your purchase is protected.

7. Think twice about creating online accounts and storing your credit card info in them.

Most online checkouts will ask you to sign up for an account or allow you to check out as a guest. If possible, always choose the “guest” option. If it’s a store you shop from regularly, create an account but don’t store your credit card details or other key personal info on the account. If the company has a data breach, your saved information could end up in the hands of cybercriminals. Only create an account if absolutely necessary, or if you’re going to use the site a lot in the future.

What to do if you’re scammed.

If you think yoiu’ve been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. If the scam occurred on a social media platform or online marketplace, contact them and report it. You can also make a report to Scamwatch.

Check out our other tips for spotting scams or sign up for to receive Scamwatch’s scam radar alerts.