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

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

Or, a Sting CD

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

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.

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.

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

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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