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Practice Safe Online Holiday Shopping

November 25, 2015

It's that time of the year again when some unscrupulous parties grab a domain name, set up a site and start selling counterfeit or non-existent goods to unwary holiday shoppers.

A recent warning from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) imparts some good advice for Australian online shoppers too.

The agencies have provided a timely reminder for consumers to be aware of online scams involving counterfeit goods instead of genuine products.

Buying dodgy goods isn't just a waste of money, it can be dangerous too.

"Counterfeit electronics that overheat due to improper manufacture, fake bicycle helmets that break upon impact and phony cosmetics that lead to skin ailments are just a few examples of knock-off items sold online that present a serious health and safety risk," says a media release.

The counterfeit issue is rife on the web. By December last year, ICE says it had seized nearly 30,000 domains involved with the activity.

Among the potential warning signs of counterfeit activity are goods at very low prices, websites without proper contact information, shipping from foreign locations and goods looking slightly different. The ICE release also warns of being sent to a third party site for payment; however, processors such as PayPal are safe - as long as it is PayPal and not a forgery; because if it's the latter, then your sensitive financial information is also at risk.

Generally speaking; old wisdom very much applies when shopping online - if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

For Australian online shoppers, buying goods from a website hosted under a .COM.AU domain name can provide some level of reassurance. Unlike some other domain extensions, to be able to register a .AU name registrants must meet certain and rather stringent eligibility criteria; including the provision of supporting identification such as an ABN (Australian Business Number).

While a .COM.AU domain name won't guarantee you're dealing with an ethical company, it does help provide some level of recourse should a transaction go bad.

The .AU domain space enjoys a high level of consumer trust. A survey carried out in 2014 found two-thirds of  respondents were more likely to trust a .AU website compared with only a third for a .COM. 

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