woman shopping online with a credit card and laptop on a couch

While we are all at home more because of COVID-19, people are beginning to make more of their purchases online. Some people are not confident when making purchases online, and some are overly confident. Making a digital transaction can be scary and you need to be careful. Here are some ways to stay safe and smart when shopping online.

Socially distant shopping

Social distancing and stay at home rules mean we are all spending a lot more time at home and only going out for essential items like groceries and medications, so making your “not so essential” purchases online is a great 21st-century workaround. It is vital to make sure when you make an online purchase, that you do it safely.

Online shopping helps us to maintain social distancing and to limit outings for only getting essentials. Most essential services are offering online solutions for people who are self-isolating because of COVID-19, whether they are people with disabilities, people over the age of 70, or people who are immunocompromised or unwell, so they can access essential services like medical care, groceries and prescriptions from home. 


Read more about accessing Telehealth services here, getting your groceries here and getting your medications here.


Non-essential purchases are still important too, though. They support the economy, which is struggling a lot right now, our mental health and wellbeing. It helps us stay connected. Buying a gift for someone you can’t see at the moment, notably, if you are missing out on celebrating a birthday or anniversary together, let them know you care about and miss them.

Only use secure sites

Make sure you are making your purchases through a secure website. Secure websites have https:// in the address bar rather than http://

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol (Secure). If you can see https in the address bar and a locked padlock symbol, then you know the site you are using is secure. If the padlock is unlocked, then any data you send will not be encrypted and may be intercepted by a third party. Only make transactions and share personal data online when you are on a secure site. Sticking to brands or businesses you know, have experience with, and trust is also a good idea, especially if you are new to making online transactions.

Many bricks and mortar businesses that you know and trust already had online shopping options available or have quickly adapted their business model to survive in the COVID crisis.

Use a secure payment system

Secure online payment systems like PayPal can protect your banking details when making an online transaction. PayPal can also help you in a situation where an item doesn’t arrive, isn’t as it was described, or is faulty via their Resolution Centre.

Know your rights

Australian Consumer Law protects the rights of Australians when they buy things both in-store and online. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has resources and information on Online Shopping and may help you when your rights have been breached.

For more information, visit Stay Smart Online for advice from the Australian Government for Shopping Online.

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