The Dangers Of Online Shopping For Families

In our click and collect culture, online shopping has become so popular that it’s almost second nature. We can save money by shopping competitively, save time by cutting down on trips back and forth and save effort by having things delivered straight to our home. Never before have we had such a wide range of products and choices at our fingertips.

Recognise That Online Shopping Can Be Dangerous

It is vital that you impart the potential dangers of online shopping to your family. There are a plethora of online fraudsters waiting to ensnare the financial details of the non-savvy consumer, and teens are particularly susceptible. They are easily lured by popular brands sold for low prices but often lack the critical literacy to question a seller’s legitimacy, leading to the purchase of replicas or the receipt of nothing at all.

Shopping together provides opportunities for families to understand the process of searching for and finding items, reviewing an online cart, entering personal information, confirming and recording order information. Here is how you can help your family understand the dangers of online shopping: develop a critical eye when it comes to Internet safety and use discerning decision-making to ensure that online shopping is done wisely.

Ready to take action to protect your family? Download our FREE eBook, ‘Cyber Safety: The Essential Guide To Protect Your Children Online’.

Common Dangers Associated With Online Shopping

The number of online shopping scams that innocent consumers fall prey to is prolific. These are stylised, sophisticated operations designed to appear as straight-forward and legitimate as possible in order to entrap and deceive.

An online shopping scam can include a fake eCommerce site that’s designed to look like the real deal – slick design, professional logo, stolen ABN and even a ‘’ domain name [1]. Many of these scammers also create false social media accounts (particularly Instagram) and buy ‘likes’ so they appear to be legitimate Teens are accustomed to businesses, celebrities and products having a social media presence but are often disinclined to investigate further to see if it’s the representation of a genuine company.

There are a number of other dangers associated with online shopping that may trip up the unsuspecting user:

  • Making a purchased over an unsecured connection or via a site that does not have appropriate security settings surrounding customer purchases
  • Purchasing fake or imitation goods that are sold as if they were the ‘real thing’ (this impacts teenagers who consume easily duplicated celebrity products like  makeup and clothing)
  • Purchasing a product that simply does not exist or is of an extremely inferior quality
  • Purchasing items that do not align with what was advertised or pictured

Online Shopping Scam Warning Signs

Shopping online is just another risk we face when so much of our lives take place in digital environments. We need to be smart about understanding how to mitigate the online shopping risks which have potentially serious financial consequences, as well as trusting our instincts when something doesn’t ‘feel right’. It’s highly likely it isn’t.  Start by doing your research to see if the business has any comments or reviews about it.

1. Method of Payment & Security

The method of payment options should include established, secure funds transfer options like Paypal or VISA or other credit cards. If these are not options this is a tell-tale sign of a problematic website or seller. Typically, an unsafe site will only offer payment methods such as: :

  • EFT (electronic funds transfer)
  • Money Order
  • Use of a pre-loaded money card
  • Wire transfer
  • “Pay up-front” vouchers that are necessary to pre-purchase before being given access to a cheap deal or free item [1]

Most secure websites have already moved to use an SSL Certificate. This acts as a digital key and padlock that ensures a safe connection between your browser and the web server that the site you’re buying from is using. An SSL Certificate uses something called a cryptographic key to protect your information.

Signs that a website is safe [4] and has an SSL Certificate:

  • HTTPS not HTTP will appear at the start of the address
  • You will see a padlock in the address bar – NOT the web page

2. Too Good To Be True

This is where the idea of critical literacy really comes into play. If a product is being sold at an unbelievably low price or with untold amounts of additional benefits [1] then there has to be a catch. Particularly when access to the product is conditional upon it being purchased immediately.

Use these examples of fraudulent behaviour as teaching moments for your family [6]. This is an opportunity to open up real conversations about authenticity, honesty and reading between the lines – lessons that could be transferred to other contexts.

3. Limited Online Information & Unclear Policies

One of the dangers of online shopping is dealing with a lack of access to information. This is a significant warning sign. Check to see if the website you are purchasing from is:

  • Very new
  • Selling products at very low prices with little information concerning delivery or other policies
  • Lacking in information concerning customer privacy, conditions of use, resolving consumer disputes or contact details
  • Tips For Online Shopping

In addition to the information provided above, we’ve identified nine other tips to share with your teens about online shopping.

1. Research The Retailer

The company you are purchasing from should be reputable with an established online presence [2]. Buying local doesn’t just bolster our domestic economy – it’s potentially an extra safeguard against fraudulent behaviour.

2. Know What You’re Buying

Avoid quick, impulse purchases. Careful, considered reading of product description and other associated information, such as extra charges may save your family from a costly mistake [3].

3. Read Reviews

Online shopping scams are often and easily shared on platforms like Facebook because users do not take the time to properly read and discern authenticity. Do your own research by searching for an online presence and real customer reviews that indicate this is a business to be trusted, or not.

4. Only Use Secure Payment Portals

Using PayPal or secure credit card transfer will provide a digital snapshot of a payment [2]. Never transfer money directly into a bank account as you will not be as protected when it comes to fraud, guarantees or non-delivery of items. Keep records of all your online shopping communication (screenshots, email receipts and communication should be carefully filed).

5. Check Privacy Policy

The website of the seller should provide a refund, returns privacy and complaints resolution policy. If none exists then re-consider your purchase.

6. Check Bank Statements Carefully

Check and query any anomalies on a regular basis to ensure against incorrect debit amounts.

7. Keep Up To Date With Software

Regular checks of your antivirus and anti-spyware software will ensure your system is running effectively and you are protected against infiltrating viruses.

8. Price Shop

Check that the price that is showing on your browser matches those on other people’s devices.  It’s possible your Internet history is being monitored and you’re being overcharged.

The Dangers of Online Shopping – When It All Goes Wrong

If something goes wrong while you’re online shopping you can [1]:

  • Contact the retailer to assess whether there is a legitimate reason for the problem
  • Contact your financial institution to inform them of the situation
  • Report online shopping scams to the ACCC to help others

Cyber Safety: The Essential Guide To Protect Your Children Online


  1. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – Online Shopping Scams
  2. Get Safe Online – Shopping
  3. Stay Smart Online – Selling and Shopping Online
  4. Stay Smart Online – Be Aware Of The Risks When Purchasing Products And Services Online
  5. Get Cyber Safe – Shopping Online
  6. Teaching Your Child The Dangers Of Internet Shopping
  7. Online Shopping Security Issues And How Cyber Security Can Help
  8. Protecting Yourself From Online Shopping Scams
  9. Risks and Recommendations For Online Shopping
  10. What Are The Risks Of Online Shopping?

Related Articles