A guide to online shopping
Why shop online?
Sometimes, goods and services you want aren’t available at a physical location near you, or you can only buy items at a discounted price if you buy them online.
What do you need to shop online?
A device with access to the internet (Note - any device you use that connects to the internet should have reliable anti-virus and malware protection installed).
A way to pay for your order – for example, credit card, PayPal account, Internet banking, etc. This will depend on what the seller will accept. (Refer to Methods of Payment below).
Top 10 tips to safety when shopping online:
- NEVER give anyone your password or PIN.
- Public computers and public networks such as free Wi-Fi are not secure and you should never use them for internet shopping or internet banking.
- When logging into banking, shopping or email sites, always look for “https” at the beginning of the URL – the “s” stands for secure.
- Before you enter any payment or personal details, make sure the site is secure by checking for the padlock symbol in the address bar.
- Make sure the URL or website address is genuine. Scammers often create fake websites with URLs or logos that are similar to the real one.
- Type the website address straight into your browser’s address bar. Don’t copy or click on links in emails as they could be fake.
- If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam (either the goods will never turn up, what turns up is not what you expected, you are charged more than you expected or the site is just a ‘front’ for people to get your details). Try to search for more information about the company or product you are looking at and compare prices and look at feedback/reviews before you decide to buy.
- Check that the company’s contact details are included on their website, including a physical address.
- Whenever you make a payment online, you need to weigh up the risks. If you’re dealing with a company or organisation that you trust like a government service, your phone company, or grocery store, there is less risk because you know that if something goes wrong, you can probably contact the company and sort it out. If you’re dealing with a company that’s located overseas, a company you’ve never dealt with before that is not well known or an individual seller, there is greater risk because you may not know for sure that they are legitimate, that you will get what you have paid for or that you can get your money back if something goes wrong. Using a credit card or PayPal can sometimes give you extra protection against fraud and sometimes they can reverse the charges and refund your money, but not in every case and you may have to wait some time to get your money back. Each bank is different, so you need to talk to your own bank to see what protection they have in place for credit cards.
- Have a separate credit card with a low credit limit that you only use for internet shopping and that isn’t linked to your main bank account. If you think your card details have fallen into the wrong hands or someone is trying to use your credit card without your permission, you can cancel or suspend the credit card but still have access to your normal bank account and money. If something does go wrong and someone gets access to your credit card details and uses your card, having a low credit limit can help to stop them from charging high costs (but you may lose money up to the card limit amount).
How do you use online shopping?
Search for the item you want. For sites that sell products, once you find what you want you click on the item you want to buy and select how many you want. These are then added to a ‘shopping cart’. You keep adding to the shopping cart until you have selected everything you want to buy.
Once you have selected everything, click on the shopping cart symbol and you will usually be taken to another page where you can see the contents of your cart all together. You usually have the chance to check the items are correct and can change or remove items from the cart before you continue. Make sure you check if additional postage has been added and how much it is. You probably don’t want to buy a $5 item and pay $100 postage!
You will then be asked for your details. Only fill in the fields that are mandatory. If the site is asking for more details than you want to give them, you can always just close the page and end what you are doing. Remember, you don’t HAVE to buy anything just because you put it in the shopping cart. If you still want to buy the item, enter in your details which will probably include your name, address where you want the item sent to, and a way to contact you (email, phone number, etc.). Some sites will make you register so that you have a log in and password. Before you do this, you should also check if by registering you are agreeing to any conditions that you don’t want. You may be given the option of choosing whether you want to receive emails, promotion or offers from the site you are dealing with or from their partners, or third parties. If you agree to this, you will continue to receive promotional emails and they may pass your details onto a mailing list that is sold to many companies.
Methods of payment
When you pay for something online, you are usually given several different options on how you can pay. It is very important to choose the payment that you are most comfortable with, depending on who you are dealing with.
The most common options are:
- Credit Card – With this option, you enter your credit card details directly into a form on a website. You might be redirected to another secure site while you enter these details and your payment is processed.
- Direct Debit – With this option, you enter your bank account details (the name the account is in, the BSB number and your account number) and you give permission for the seller to contact your bank and have the funds to be transferred directly from your bank account.
- Direct Deposit – A direct depost lets you transfer money from your bank into someone else’s bank account. To do this, the seller needs to give you their bank account details (name, BSB number and account number) of the seller and make a payment directly into their account. The first step is to register the seller as a payee by entering their bank account details and confirming that you want to Your bank will then normally send you an SMS or email with a code that you
- BPAY – BPAY is a very common way to pay bills. You are given a Biller Code and a BPAY Reference number. The Biller Code tells the bank who you are paying. BPAY Biller Codes are allocated by the bank and linked to the seller’s account, so instead of getting all of their bank account details you are just given a short code. The BPAY Reference Number is the seller’s way of recognising who is making the payment instead of entering an invoice number, account number or bill number.
- PayPal – To use PayPal, you need to link your bank account or credit card to your PayPal account. You don’t need to keep money in your PayPal account. PayPal holds this information and never passes it onto the seller. When you choose to pay by PayPal, you are redirected to the PayPal site where you need to log in and choose which linked account or credit card you want to use for the payment. PayPal takes the money from your linked account and then PayPal pays the seller.
Resources & Guides for Online Shopping
- Queensland Government – Tips for buying online
- MoneySmart (Australian Securities & Investments Commission)
- Be Connected (Office of the eSafety Commissioner)
- Banks - Contact your bank to learn what protection they have in place when you are shopping online using a credit card they have issued. Most banks also have information on their websites about how to shop safely online.