Keeping your details safe when Christmas shopping online

Keep the Grinch away from your details

ACTIVITY

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But having to actually get up from a chair and battle the crowds in stores does not appeal at all. So, we look to the internet to save us from physical exertion and having to navigate throngs of people. It’s a magical age we live in, isn’t it? 

Things will not seem all that magical, however, if you start to notice charges to your credit card you didn’t actually make. Also not appealing? When the product you buy is faulty, won’t work in Australia, isn’t legal in Australia or comes with a raft of associated costs. 

So, to make sure your Christmas spirit stays at an all-time high, be sure to take heed of the following tips to help protect yourself — and your bank balance —when shopping online for gifts for loved ones or for yourself (it still counts as giving even if the person you’re giving to happens to be you). 

Shop only on secure websites 

How do you know if a website is secure? Well, secure websites always have two things: an image of a closed padlock, which is usually located in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser window), and the web address always begins with “https://” — a website that leaves out the “s” and begins with “http:// is not a secure website. This isn’t an either/or situation; for a website to be secure, it must have both of these things.

If you can’t see the markers of a secure website, then don’t give out any personal information — including credit card or account numbers.

Don’t ever give out a PIN or password

This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people get tricked into giving out this information.

Consider your privacy

If a website is asking you for info that doesn’t seem overly relevant to the purchase process, then question why and consider whether you should continue with the purchase. It might sound tedious, but it’s also worth taking a look at the website’s privacy policy and making sure you’re cool with its stipulations.

Be a stickler for keeping records

Yes, we know it’s anal-retentive, but it’s a smart thing to do. Make sure you take note of any reference numbers associated with your order and either print or take screen shots of any receipts or order forms — and if you don’t receive either of these things, follow up with the website straightaway. Be sure to double-check the receipt with the amount that is charged to your card or debited from your account. If the numbers are different, then do that follow up with the website thing.

Be scam-aware

It can be really hard to tell a scam apart from the real deal, but scamwatch.gov.au is a great resource to visit periodically to help keep you in the loop on the various and ever-present internet scams making the rounds. Also a good mantra: If it seems too good to be true… you know where we’re going with this.

Buy only from reputable businesses

How can you tell if a business is reputable? The following are some indicators:

  • You’ve used them before and haven’t had any problems.
  • The company has an actual office — including a listed physical street address (and not just a PO Box) and a landline telephone number (we know it’s not the dark ages, but just a mobile isn’t going to cut it on the reputable front).

 

Check the terms and conditions

This is especially pertinent as it relates to what happens if the product is faulty, is broken in transit, doesn’t fit, never arrives or doesn’t match what you ordered. Make sure you read the website’s terms and conditions so you know what the process is for returning something (and how much you have to pay in shipping costs to return any items) and how to go about getting a refund/making sure refunds are offered.

Be aware of hidden costs

Sure, the product on its own might seem cheap, but shipping and delivery fees, taxes, and currency conversion rates and associated charges can really negate that original saving. Make sure you’re aware of all of the associated costs before you proceed with your order.

Take special care when buying from an overseas site

When you buy from an overseas website, you aren’t protected by Australia’s consumer laws, so this makes it hard for you to get your money back if your Australian consumer rights are violated.

There is also a big legal consideration — is the product legal in Australia? — as well as some practical concerns — will the product actually work here? Do any warranties apply here? Does the product meet Australian safety standards? Do you need an import permit for the item in question? Do any import taxes apply? To check yourself before you wreck yourself on those last two, pay a visit to www.border.gov.au before you make any purchases.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and may you have a happy and safe shopping experience!


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