By Keri Algar

SYDNEY, NSW: The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has issued two warnings within a week to consumers purchasing goods online, highlighting the hazards of stolen finances and identities. 

Cyber-criminals target the vulnerability of potential victims during the Christmas shopping season, according to Neil Gaughan, AFP national manager for High Tech Crime Operations.

“All internet users should be aware that the use of internet technology can allow virtual strangers to obtain large amounts of personal information relating to a wide range of personal activities,” Gaughan said.

“This is not a warning to avoid the internet…but consumers should ensure they protect their personal and financial information, keeping in mind some basic steps when using your credit card online so as to prevent fraud and avoid any disappointment and stress.”

The advice cautions consumers who are increasingly shopping online this festive season to not give away too much personal information, to research the merchant before placing an order, to save all transaction details and to not click on links in emails from online retailers as they can infect computers with malicious software.

The warning was issued in collaboration with Abacus Australian Mutuals, an industry body for credit unions and building societies.

“Consumers expect high standards from online retailers and we are warning the public about the level of information they give – for instance, no one should have to provide a date of birth to merchants to buy pet supplies,” Abacus CEO Louise Petschler said.

“With the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimating the value of Australian business internet orders was at $123 billion in 2008–2009, and with almost half of all consumers surveyed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority spending more than $1,000 – safe, savvy online shopping is set to be big business this Christmas and festive season.”

Related Stories:

Online retailers slam Gerry's comments

Kambo's and Good Guys now trading online

Onine retailer Millennius' first publicity stunt is pathetic