Online shopping has given people more choice and cheaper prices. Check out our advice on how to stay safe when shopping online.

What are the best online shopping safety tips?

Check that the website is secure: Always look for a padlock symbol in the browser window when you attempt to log in, register or check out. Only enter credit/debit card details on a webpage that begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means your payment information is encrypted. Often you can check the SSL certificate registration details to see if they match with the website address.

Buy online using a credit card: Buying with a credit card gives shoppers better protection than a debit card – if a deal goes bad you can try to get a bank chargeback. You could also use a Prezzy card which expires and offers an extra level of anonymity. If you are asked to pay using a money transfer system like Western Union do not do so. These systems are designed for sending money to people you know and trust and it’s not possible to trace payments or claim refunds if you send money this way. 

Do some due diligence before you press buy: Check how much of a bargain you’re being offered – compare the price of the item in an NZ store to see how cheap the deal is. If you’re shopping on an online site that you haven’t used previously, Google the name of the site with the word “scam” or “review” after it. If a website has tricked other shoppers before, there’s a good chance a disgruntled customers will post warnings online.

Understand who runs the online shop: Well known brands often list a contact number, address and policies about returning goods. If you’re thinking of buying from a less well known website, check if the company lists a telephone number and try calling it. Many of the scam sites reported to us can only be reached through an online feedback form and this can often be a red flag.To check the origins of a company selling online, search the domain ownership information and the registration date. The ‘whois’ record – easily searched at  whois.domaintools.com or dnc.org.nz for .nz domains –  shows you contact information and how long the website has been operating. If the site was set-up recently or is hidden behind a private domain registration, be very cautious about placing an order.Another check to consider is locating where the site is hosted. www.infosniper.net is a great way to check where the computer powering the website is based. If a .nz website is based offshore – or in a high fraud risk country like Russia – this should make you think twice about buying.

What can I do if an online trade goes bad?

Contact the seller to follow up on your order: Most genuine sellers will be quick to reply to emails but a lack of response could indicate the seller will not deliver your items.

Talk to your bank: If you paid by credit card, you can apply to your bank for a chargeback. Read the advice from Consumer Affairs on making a chargeback. Most banks have a 60-day limit from the time of purchase for you to lodge a chargeback request and not all chargeback requests are successful. If you paid via a third party system such as PayPal, go through their dispute resolution process before attempting to go through the chargeback process with your bank.

Apply to the Disputes Tribunal: If you’ve ordered through a New Zealand based seller you can make an application to the Disputes Tribunal. You will need to have the seller’s physical address and that can sometimes be a problem. There is also a fee for applying.

Report to Netsafe: The information you provides us helps us keep track of dodgy dealers and work with Consumers Affairs who issue Scam Alerts.

Contact Netsafe

Need help or advice? Contact us.

  • Email queries@netsafe.org.nz
  • Call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
  • Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.

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