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07.08.2018Managing financial safety online

Shopping online is one of the great conveniences of modern times. It not only saves people time, but it also allows them to make purchases in the comfort of their own home.


Shopping online is one of the great conveniences of modern times. It not only saves people time, but it also allows them to make purchases in the comfort of their own home. Everything from gig tickets to groceries are now readily available at the touch of a button or the tap of a screen, and there’s no reason to believe this phenomenon is going away any time soon.

But for all the convenience that online shopping offers, connecting a wallet to the web is still somewhat risky. Hackers are always in the headlines, and it sometimes seems like there’s a threat lurking around every corner. It was only earlier this year, for example, that Ticketmaster asked people in Australia to double-check that their bank accounts hadn’t fallen victim to a piece of hacking software in a third-party product exposed to customers. With this sort of story fresh in everyone’s minds, here are some top tips for ensuring that online shopping experiences are as safe as possible.

Goods not arriving

In the event that an online shopper realises that they may have been scammed (through not receiving a product they paid for, for example, or receiving one that is clearly different to the one advertised), then they should start by speaking to the retailer. Larger, established retailers almost always have a complaints function, although size and reputation sadly aren’t always a guarantee of legitimacy. If the retailer doesn’t reply, the shopper should then approach their payment provider.

Credit cards and PayPal

If the shopper paid on a credit card, they will often be able to get some help from their card provider. In some cases, the provider will initiate what’s known as a “chargeback”. This is essentially a refund, but it’s up to the provider and they’ll need to look into it before the online shopper gets the cash. If they paid through bank transfer or debit card, though, this may be a little harder – although it’s still worth speaking to the bank. Online payment systems like PayPal offer an additional layer of protection because they have in-built complaints systems which investigate what happened and mitigate disputes between the shopper and the seller, so it may be worth choosing this option for payment.

Work out the full cost

As with physical shops, online retailers often lure people in with promises of headline low prices. But where savvy in-person shoppers can enter a store and leave with their cheap product, online shoppers often face additional fees which are levied right at the end of the process when the psychological commitment to buying has already been made. Provided they’re definitely published on the site, not drawing attention to postage costs and other fees might not be against the rules but it’s a sneaky practice – and in some cases it’s one that can hit online shoppers’ wallets more than certain scams.

The most famous additional charge for online shoppers, of course, is postage, and online shoppers should always look for this information first, so they can add it on to the price for a fully informed decision. This is especially significant for those who are shopping from foreign online stores which import items into the country, as there’s an additional 10% tax – called a goods and services tax, or GST – now placed on these goods. As a result, retailers may pass on this cost, creating even more of an incentive to hide fees.

Shopping online brings a whole host of benefits with it, but it’s also difficult to grapple with when it comes to preserving online safety. Luckily there are ways for online shoppers to protect themselves from problems. From taking the time to work out the full cost of a product to becoming familiar with how to get a refund in the event of a scam, there are plenty of protective measures which can be taken.


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