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Monday, April 12, 2021

How to ensure you’re shopping online safely this silly season

Australian consumers choosing to do their Christmas shopping online need to be aware that scams are on the rise.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there has been a 42% year-on-year increase in online shopping in Australia this year; consequently, online scamming has also jumped 42%.

University of Canberra Associate Professor of Information Technology and Systems, Dr Abu Barkat Ullah, told Canberra Weekly the key to online shopping is gleaning whether the seller is legitimate or not.

“We will see a lot of good bargains, especially with the increase of social media, our mobile phones and our internet exposure,” he said.

“But some of the deals are a bit too good to be true … we need to think or use our own judgement.

“Think about from where I’m buying, is it a reputable seller? If it is, they should have a good policy, privacy disclosure, and warranty disclosure.”

Dr Ullah advised techniques like checking the URL to see where they are located and how secure the site is, using a secure payment method like PayPal, and seeking out external reviews of the website and product are good practice.

“Keep your eyes open, do not believe anything until or unless you verify the seller and there’s a lot of ways we can verify,” he said.

Dr Ullah’s top tips for safe online Christmas shopping:

  • If it’s an Australian seller, check their ABN; for global sellers check their reputation.
  • Check the store’s refund and customer satisfaction policy; sometimes things can go wrong.
  • If you see an advertisement via social media or email, don’t click the link. Type the address yourself or search for the product independently.
  • Using a secure payment method, like PayPal or Apple Pay, adds another level of protection on top of regular purchasing.
  • Check the URL for spelling errors, site location, and transaction security.
  • If you’re scammed, report it to scamwatch.gov.au or the relevant buying platform.

Just as tax scams peak in June/July in Australia, Dr Ullah said Christmas time is peak season for online shopping scams.

For that reason, victims of scams are encouraged to report their experience to the Australian Government’s scamwatch.gov.au or the relevant buying platform like eBay, Gumtree, or social media.

“If I’m running a scam, I’ll start up an advertisement campaign, quickly do that for a few days and then disappear. No one can track me except for the platforms I advertised on,” he said.

“If we have paid someone, it’s unlikely we’ll get the money back … In this case, prevention is better than the cure.”

Gender wise, Dr Ullah said 54% of women will report when they’ve been targeted, while men are a bit quieter at 43%.

“But men are losing more money,” he said.

“Age wise, for the age group 55-64, their loss is a severe amount, but they’re not reporting that much.

“The age group between 25-44, this group is losing the most money, but their number of reports are proportionate.”

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