The expansion of Australia’s online retail space this festive season with giants like Amazon heralds a new era of shopping habits but also comes with an important caveat from the consumer watchdog to watch out for online scams.
Back in October, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported its Scamwatch website has received more than 51,000 complaints totaling losses of nearly $37 million, with people aged 45 to 54 the most likely to lose their money.
Shop online with trusted retailers
Naturally we don't want cyber criminals intercepting our hard-earned dollars, and for those about to embark on Christmas shopping via cyberspace, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard urges shoppers to go for trusted retailers online.
“It’s always worthwhile if you haven’t had an experience with a retailer before to do a quick Google search to see what others have had to say about them,” she told the Hit Network.
Ms Rickard says a common online scam involves the use of fake websites which are set up to closely resemble the real deal.
“One of the things about shopping online, if you haven’t shopped somewhere before, we are seeing an increase of clone websites, fake websites, that look like they have a good deal, a good offering, you send off your money and you never get your goods,” she said.
“Always check the URL up the top very closely, because the clone ones [websites] will tend to be one dot or one letter off the original, so at first glance it looks like the real place, but there’ll be something slightly wrong with it.”
Avoid unreliable payment methods
When it comes to selecting a reliable method for payment, Ms Rickard says to steer clear of Bitcoin and making wire transfers.
“Go for a known, secure mechanism, either Paypal or a credit card, anyone that’s asking you pay via Bitcoin or a wire transfer is probably a scammer,” she said.
“It’s really important to watch out for, if you’re asked to pay with a credit card I’d always been looking for a website that has HTTPS, and the ‘S’ is the important bit there in the header with the padlock, which means it’s a secure sending, it’s encrypted as it goes.
"That’s probably your best protections.”
What if you're targeted by an online scam?
If you are targeted by scammers, Stay Smart Online recommends contacting your bank immediately to discuss your best options, which usually will be replacing cards or resetting online access.
They say most big banks offer guarantees that they’ll cover any loss due to unauthorised transactions on your account, as long as you didn’t contribute to the loss, you protected your devices and passwords, and you let them know as soon as it happened.
Find out more about shopping safely during the festive season at selling and shopping online, online scams and browsing the web safely.
You can report a cybercrime to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and a scam to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s SCAMwatch.