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Spend Carefully

7 ways to stay safe while shopping online

Financial Wellbeing Coach

2023-11-17 00:00

Estimated reading time
10 min

In this article

  • What are online shopping scams?
  • Common types of online shopping scams
  • 7 tips to watch out for while online shopping
  • Think you’ve been scammed?

We all love a good bargain but sometimes the frenzy of grabbing that deal can lead to letting your guard down and clicking without thinking - is this real or fake?

The popularity of sales events such as Black Friday are on the rise in Australia¹ as shoppers, faced with the increasing cost of living, are on the hunt to uncover the best deals. For scammers, sales season is the perfect time to swoop in and take advantage of the shoppers focused on securing that bargain.

That’s why it’s important to remain super cautious about the offers you see, links you are sent, and “deals” you stumble across when shopping online. Ultimately, if something looks suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is!

What are online shopping scams?

Online shopping scams happen when scammers act like buyers or sellers, pretending to be legitimate companies or individuals, trying to deceive you and steal your money!

Common types of online shopping scams

Some ways that online shopping scammers can impersonate seasonal sales:

  • Fake goods or too-good-to-be-true prices
    Sellers may offer products that are malicious (e.g. fake anti-virus for your new device) or simply too good to be true (e.g. highly discounted designer brand name items) which you may never receive.

  • Fake shopping websites
    Scammers may create fake shopping websites resembling well-known brands, enticing shoppers with deals at unusual or ridiculously low prices – fake shopping websites can even appear in top search results.

  • Marketplace scams
    Scammers post fake ads on marketplace platforms appearing as legitimate sellers offering items at wildly low prices like designer bags. They’ll usually ask you to make an advance payment to their account or use the PayPal 'friends and family’ option. Sadly, your goods will never arrive, and you have no way of getting your money back.

  • Delivery scams
    Scammers may pretend to be a trusted post or courier delivery provider, sending you text messages asking for money or personal information to ensure you get your goods. These messages may be direct links to malicious software downloads or direct you to fake websites.

7 tips to watch out for while online shopping

Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your dollars from scams when shopping online at any time of the year.

1. Be cautious with tempting offers

Scams may offer rare or highly sought-after items, such as concert tickets, often creating a sense of urgency to purchase. Be sure to pause and assess offers, especially if they seem too good to be true!

2. Beware of new online stores

Be careful when shopping on new online stores selling products at unusually low prices. Play detective and investigate the website's registration date using the ICANN Lookup search - if it was recently registered, it could be a scam. To double-check, use a search engine and type the “website name” plus the word “scam” and carefully review the results.

3. Don’t click on unexpected or unusual links

Never click links in emails, text messages, or pop-up messages on social media - they might lead you to a fake website! Search for the official website yourself in your browser.

4. Pay attention to URL spelling

Look for weird spelling in search results and website URLs, including dashes, typos, or symbols in the company name of an online store.

5. Check website information

It’s important to know how to identify fake shopping websites. A legitimate online store should include essential information like a privacy policy, ABN, terms and conditions, contact details, and offer secure payment methods like credit cards and PayPal. Check reviews about the company before handing your dollars over.

6. Use PayID and beware of unusual payment methods

Where possible, use PayID or BPAY, and make sure the name matches the person or company you’re paying. If it doesn’t match – don’t pay! Don’t consider payments requested in gift cards, unless it matches the company (e.g. gift cards for corresponding retailers).

7. Inspect items in person

Whenever possible, view items - including pets - in person before making a purchase! Online marketplace scammers are very devious - they may misrepresent items or provide excuses and strange reasons about why they can’t show you an item.

Remember, something looks suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is!

Think you’ve been scammed?

  • Call us immediately on 13 33 50.
  • If you believe you may have fallen victim to a scam on your ANZ card or account, follow the steps outlined on the ANZ Report bank fraud page.

You can also report scams at ACCC Scamwatch.

For more resources

Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.

Keep up to date with the latest security alerts.

Read the ANZ Cyber Security - How to Bank securely brochure.

Remember, support is available

IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s free national identity and cyber support service. They can help you plan to limit the damage. Call them on 1800 595 160 or visit their website to find out more.

Being scammed is an unpleasant experience and it can happen to anyone. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to family and friends or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

7 ways to stay safe while shopping online
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The information set out above is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, you should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. By providing this information ANZ does not intend to provide any financial advice or other advice or recommendations. You should seek independent financial, legal, tax and other relevant advice having regard to your particular circumstances.