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Online shopping events throughout the year such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and sales around Christmas, Boxing Day and end of financial year can be a great time to find a bargain. Unfortunately however, criminals see these shopping events as an opportunity to get in on some of the profit and make some cash. In 2019, reported losses from online shopping scams were over $4 million according to Scamwatch. This is well in excess of the 2018 total figure of $3.28 million.

This article will help you understand and hopefully avoid common online scams by looking out for known red flags.

Things to consider before you pay

Too good to be true

Even during special sales, it pays to be curious when offered an incredible bargain. If the price advertised for your purchase is just too good to be true, it’s worth investigating further. It’s a good idea to look at other websites to compare and investigate the store making the offer before making the purchase.

Online stores that you’re not familiar with

If you find an item being sold by an online store that you’ve never dealt with, do some checks before making a purchase to ensure they’re legitimate. Do they have genuine social media pages? What is their refund policy? Consider doing a Google search and reading their reviews. Check the look and feel of their site including the resolution of branding and pictures. If you can’t determine if they’re genuine, it may be better to stick to a reputable store that you’re familiar with. This is especially true if the online store is overseas, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back if it turns out to be a scam.

Pop ups, push messages and fake advertising

Those bright and shiny ads that pop up on your screen when shopping online or using social media are clever and persistent marketing tactics looking to promote products or services. They can also be used to deliver malicious software, direct you to dodgy webpages, or fake sales. Check that your device’s virus protection is installed, working, and up to date, with a pop-up blocker. NAB has anti-virus software offers for customers.

Advertisements on many social media websites can also lead to fake offers, fake websites and cryptocurrency scams. To check out a deal, head to the genuine website or app independently to validate any offers that seem too good to be true.

Also be on the lookout for suspicious emails or text messages. If you receive an email or SMS with a sale campaign go to the app or type the address into your browser to make sure you’re accessing the genuine online store. Criminals commonly use SMS and emails to direct people to fake websites looking to steal personal or financial information. Learn more about how to spot a phishing message.

Secure Wifi

Data is a valuable resource, so it may seem attractive to save your own data and use the free Wifi offered by many retail stores. Unfortunately, these connections are often unsecure and are targeted by criminals to gain access to devices and data being shared on that network. If you have to use public Wifi, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a secure tunnel. Without this, reconsider doing any banking, or make purchases using your card, as this information may be exposed and open to misuse.

How to protect yourself online

Follow these tips to help keep your identity and your money safe online.

  • Make purchases directly through genuine online retailers, rather than through pop-ups, advertisements, email or SMS offers. Type the retailer’s website URL into your browser or use their official app downloaded from the Apple App Store, or the Android Google Play store.
  • Pay attention to the fine print - a lot of merchants will offer special rates as an introductory rate and increase the prices later or sign you up to a subscription service. Check the shipping amount and returns policy before you commit.
  • Keep your receipts - they can be extremely helpful in resolving disputes down the track.
  • Use secure payment options that come with some protections, such as PayPal (not PayPal Family and Friends) or a credit card. Do not deal with sellers asking you to pay by gift cards or cryptocurrencies.
  • Think twice about entering your credit card details into a website you’re unsure about. If it’s fraudulent, your card details could be used for fraud.
  • Do your own research and look for reviews.
  • Don’t use public Wifi without a VPN if accessing or sharing confidential information.
  • Check your bank account regularly so that you can spot any unusual transactions and report them to your bank.

While personal vigilance is the best method of protection, our security teams work 24/7 to keep customers safe. If we spot suspicious activity with your cards or online transfers, we’ll take appropriate actions and contact you to confirm if it’s genuine or not.

Read our buying and selling scams article for more information about staying safe while shopping online, or visit the ACCC Scamwatch website.

If you’re a NAB customer and believe you may have fallen victim to a scam, please call 13 22 65 immediately and ask for the Digital Fraud and Scams Team.

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