Fair Go's guide to how not to get burned shopping online

If you can believe what you read online, the first online trade was either a dope deal or a pizza order. 

Despite at least 23 years of secure, encrypted trading, people are still getting ripped off online. Source: Fair Go

Or, a Sting CD

Despite those amazing deals and at least 23 years of secure, encrypted trading, people are still getting ripped off online and the number one reason is rushing in to grab the deal instead of checking first whether it is legit.

"People see an opportunity and they want to grab it and they don't take the time to analyse whether it's a real opportunity or a fraud," says Netsafe's Martin Cocker.

Netsafe and Fair Go see plenty of complaints from Kiwis who have been short-changed, fobbed off or just plain burned shopping online.

We agree with Martin, who says the trick is to do your research more widely.

"I can make a website that looks exactly like a legitimate business but in fact is a fraudulent site. There's nothing on the website that'll tell you whether that's real or fake. You do have to get off that site and do some research and because the internet is such a big community more often than not other people have flagged that it is a fraud or a scam," he says.

Start with the big international traders that all your friends use and that you're quite comfortable with. - Martin Cocker of Netsafe

It can be as simple as searching for the name of the thing you're buying or the place you're buying it from and adding the word "review" or "scam" to the search. It will quickly tell you if others have had a bad experience that you can avoid sharing.

Martin Cocker recommends that if you're still a bit fresh and new to online shopping, stick with the big names.

"Start with TradeMe, start with Amazon, start with the big international traders that all your friends use and that you're quite comfortable with. Get used to the idea of how they work and then you're more likely to notice something that's out of place with another trader."

Taking the next step to a smaller or newer platform can be tricky.

Fair Go has heard from plenty of people taken in by simple tricks, like offshore sites using .nz domain names to look local.

It's important, because trade with a real New Zealand based business gives you full cover under New Zealand consumer law, while offshore there may be no law at all you can reach to for a remedy.

Picking those sites is not as hard as you think. You can do a whois search for free.

Whois gives you the official record of who registered the website. That's the website which you may be about to entrust with your credit card details. Good to know.

If the site is legit, those names and numbers may offer a way to chase up someone. It will at least show if you're not actually dealing with a Kiwi business, and give you pause.

If that all feels like too much detective work, here's a site you may find helpful - Scamadviser.

Scamadviser appears to search that same whois data and put it in a more user-friendly format for consumers. It's free and as the saying goes, free advice is worth exactly every cent you didn't pay for it, but it may be helpful.

Don't be fearful. There are plenty of new sites springing up selling cool stuff, run by real people who want to offer you a better deal. 

You could be like that guy who took the plunge with his credit card to buy that Sting CD for 20 bucks back in 1994. Businesses start small and more of them start online. They need your custom.

But don't rush it. Spend a little more of your time online researching before you buy and potentially you'll save a lot more of your money.



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Only two of the aircraft - drafted into a variety of roles during WWII - still grace Kiwi skies. Source: Seven Sharp

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Watch: Same-sex couple denied dream Cook Islands wedding after winning competition

A same-sex couple who won a tropical beachside wedding have finally been awarded their prize - but only after coming to Fair Go.

Tracey Strachan and Ali McWatters won the dream trip to Edgewater Resort in the Cook Islands in January, after attending the North City Wedding Expo.

They emailed the resort to claim their prize – but were dismayed after being informed that same sex marriage was illegal in the Cook Islands, and so the ceremony couldn’t proceed.

"We were shocked," said Tracey. "We were able to enter the prize, if it wasn’t able to be fulfilled the prize shouldn’t have been held here," she said.

Tracey Strachan then approached North City Wedding Expo organiser Deirdre Calvert, who said she would assist but then failed to return Ms Strachan’s follow up emails.

Worried they’d never be able to claim their prize, and with overseas friends and family asking what was going on, the couple approached Fair Go.

Turns out, it may have all been a miscommunication.

Edgewater Resort’s Emile Kairua says the hotel was organising a replacement ceremony, but had not communicated that directly to the couple.

"We actually lost track of where we were with this… A number of things we’ve been trying to catch up with," he said.

Mr Kairua immediately offered the couple a beachside ceremony – and an apology.

As for North City Wedding Expo’s Deirdre Calvert – who had been in contact with Tracey to try and fulfil the prize – she said she thought Edgewater was taking care of all communications.

"I probably should have followed up and I apologise that I didn’t… But at the end of the day, I relied on what Edgewater were telling me," she said.

Ms Calvert has since apologised for causing any stress to the couple, and says the Expo wholeheartedly supports same-sex marriage.

Edgewater has made the couple a formal offer of an 'affirmation' ceremony, although it cannot be a legally-binding marriage.

To make up for that, Ms Calvert has committed to helping Ms Strachan and Ms McWatters with their legal ceremony in New Zealand.

The couple were over the moon when Fair Go paid them a visit.

"Oh wow, thank you so much," said Tracey.

"It was a fantastic prize," said Ali. "We are stoked."

Same-sex marriage isn't legal in the Cook Islands, leaving Tracey Strachan and Ali McWatters in limbo. Source: Fair Go