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Christmas is a busy time of the year. Our calendars are filled with social events and as the gift giving season reaches fever-pitch, it’s easier than ever to head online to fulfil the Christmas gift wishes of your family and friends. And, of course, the sport of shopping online at the Boxing Day sales can give the Boxing Day Test a run for its money.

It’s important to always balance the convenience and value of online shopping, with a high level of online security awareness when shopping and transacting online, as it is easy to fall victim to scams.

So, with that in mind – take a look at our tips for staying savvy when shopping online, and safeguard yourself, your family and your finances.

Never give out your password

This one is particularly important. As scams become more sophisticated, fraudsters become bolder and may try and trick you into giving out your internet banking passwords or SMS security codes; for instance, promising to set up special investment accounts for you, or claiming to be a bank needing your password to identify you. You should never give out your password to anyone.

Be careful what information you give out online

Creating online store accounts can be a very effective, legitimate way for online businesses to capture your email address and preferences, and send you discounts and offers in the future. However, be extra cautious about the information you give out. Always use unique, strong passwords for these accounts, that are different from your online banking or any other online service that stores your personal information.

Only buy from reputable websites

Your best bet for protection is to shop from well-known, trusted brands. Fake online stores promising abnormally low prices are common, so think before you purchase, research other sites and question if the offer might just be too good to be true. It’s much safer to visit websites directly and ensure the site you’re visiting has a padlock symbol in the address bar, and the website address starts with https.

Sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace might look like you’re getting a bargain, but scammers can often set up fake accounts which can mean that you’ll never receive the goods. If you’re buying through these sites, make sure the transaction takes place in person, so you can inspect the goods and decide if they’re worth paying for.

A note on online pet scams

If you’re shopping for a new pet this Christmas, be aware of fake online accounts claiming to have puppies, kittens (and even goats) for sale. These accounts commonly appear on classifieds-style online listings, and post ads with images of the animals that are ‘available’ to buy.

In these scams, the animals and the accounts are both fake, and once a person has transferred money for their new pet, they’ll never hear from the seller again.

Tip: If you’re shopping online for a pet, look to shop with reputable stores such as those with physical premises you can visit to verify they exist, and to see your pet before you purchase

Make your payments securely

When buying gifts online (or making any purchase), use secure payment methods such as PayPal, BPAY or your credit card. If anything goes wrong, there may be schemes in place, such as Visa Zero Liability, to get your money back. If you’re asked to make a payment by direct bank deposit, money transfers or Bitcoin, be alert – this is usually a warning sign you’re being scammed.

Hold onto your receipts and regularly check your bank statements for signs of unusual activity.

Watch out for phishing schemes

These guys never give up, not even over the holidays, and this is when the chances of receiving suspicious emails and SMS messages are especially high. Never click on a link in an SMS or email requesting personal information, especially if they ask for your internet banking details. The same goes for unsolicited phone calls.

A note on fake Australia Post emails

You might have heard about fake Australia Post email and text scams, but there are many different versions to be aware of.

In one such scam, recipients receive a fake email from Australia Post advising that their package is awaiting delivery and a fee for the delivery needs to be paid. Recipients enter their bank details only to find that there was no package, and that money has been taken from their bank accounts.

Tip: Check the full email address of the sender to validate if the email is legitimate. If you’re not sure, follow up with a phone call to the company and ask for more details before you provide any banking details.

Beware old fashioned theft

It’s easy to assume most theft or fraud crimes happen online these days. But opportunistic thieves still prey on the bustle of the festive shopping period. If you’re out shopping, make sure your purse or wallet is zipped up, and never leave it unattended in your shopping trolley.

If you’re using an ATM, cover your PIN and ensure your personal safety when withdrawing cash. Don’t forget, you can withdraw cash fee-free at most major bank ATMs around the country.

When shopping online and having goods delivered, provide details for the delivery driver if you have somewhere safe for the parcels to be left. It’s not uncommon for deliveries to be stolen from doorsteps at this time of year, so always try to accept your deliveries in person.

The festive season is a time of giving and sharing – but this also makes it easier for fraudsters and scam artists to prey on your generosity. Use these tips to know the signs of an offer that is too good to be true, to make sure you don’t risk someone else doing all your Christmas spending for you.

For more information, visit ScamWatchWA ScamNet or the Australian Cyber Security Centre online.

If you have any questions or concerns around your account safety, you can contact us on 13 25 77.