On this page:
Know who you are dealing with
Research the seller
If you or your business plan to buy from an online store or seller:
- get advice from family, friends or others who have bought from the seller, or check online forums, feedback and reviews from previous customers - view the Testimonials section of our False or misleading representations page
- if the seller claims to be a registered company, look up their Australian Company Number (ACN) - visit the Australian Securities & Investments (ASIC) website
- if the seller claims to be a registered business, look up their Australian Business Number (ABN) - visit the ABN lookup website
- look for a store or seller which clearly advertises their services and any deals
- check for a phone number or email address on their website. This should make it easier for you to contact them if things go wrong.
Read the seller's refund and returns policy
If there is a problem with the item you buy, you may be entitled to return it under the Australian Consumer Law.
The seller may also have their own refund policy with additional refund rights.
For more information, view our:
Check the site is secure
- a locked padlock or key symbol at the bottom of your browser window
- a web address that starts with https:// instead of http:// in your browser address bar
- a security policy detailing measures taken to protect your personal details, including:
- the level of encryption used in the SSL process - 40-bit is the minimum
- whether the business sees and stores credit card details, or they are transferred directly to a bank
- how long the business stores credit card details and how it protects them against external hackers and its own employees.
Keep your money safe
Online payment services
Think twice before paying directly into the store or seller's bank account before you receive the item. It is safer to use your credit card or an online payment service such as PayPal or BPay, because you can dispute the charges if there is a problem with the item, or if it does not arrive. For more information, view our Private seller - online shopping page.
If you paid with a credit card or selected 'credit' on a MasterCard or Visa debit card, you may be able to seek a reversal of the transaction, called a chargeback, from your bank or credit card provider. You may also be able to seek a chargeback through PayPal (note that PayPal has its own dispute resolution processes). For more information, view our Chargeback page.
For expensive items, consider using an escrow agent, which is an independent third party who holds a payment in trust until you receive and accept the item. For more information, visit the eBay website.
If you are buying goods using an interest-free or 'buy now, pay later' deal - such as Afterpay - make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully and know when each payment is scheduled. For more information, visit the Interest-free deals page on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)'s MoneySmart website.
Protect your money with these tips:
- Do not send your credit card number via email.
- Keep all significant receipts and written warranties so you can prove your purchase.
- Opt for full payment on delivery, rather than paying the full amount in advance.
- Avoid excessive deposits and high interim payments for products and services you have ordered.
- Use gift cards, vouchers and credit notes as soon as possible so you do not miss the expiry date.
- Never sign up for open-ended charges against your card.
- When you enter your card details, do not provide your bank account number as well.
- Notify your credit card provider immediately if you become aware of an unauthorised transaction on your account.
- Be aware that debit cards do not have the same level of protection as credit cards against fraudulent use.
- Check the business is registered by using the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)'s business name search.
For tips on how to avoid common online scams:
Know exactly what you are buying
Before confirming your purchase:
- make sure there is a picture and clear description of the item
- make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions, so you know your options if you have to change or cancel your contract
- check closely for any additional charges, such as membership fees, which could be ongoing. Look out for boxes that have been automatically ticked – these could be adding costs to your purchase
- if the seller is overseas, check if the item can be legally imported - visit the Australian Customs Service website
- make sure you know the total amount you will be paying (including delivery and insurance) in Australian currency - check the currency exchange rate at the Reserve Bank website.
Note: to ensure that your item can be easily tracked or replaced, we recommend you:
- have it sent via registered mail or
- purchase delivery insurance.
Once you have confirmed your purchase, keep records of:
- any forms you fill in
- the confirmation page and receipt
- pages in the website outlining the offer you have accepted
- related emails.
Protect your privacy
For simple steps on protecting your privacy, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
Shop Smart Online video
For more safety tips, watch the Shop Smart Online video.