We have worked with Spectrum Care to create this plain language romance scams guide. It offers advice for people with an intellectual disability, and those who support them. You can read our other plain language guides here.

Online shopping

  • You can buy things from a business online in an online shop. You can also buy things from people who sell things privately on places like Facebook Marketplace or TradeMe.
  • You should be careful if you buy things from people on places like TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace.
  • If you are buying from a business in an online shop, you will usually need to use a card to pay, such as an EFTPOS card, or bank card. Never use someone else’s card without their permission.
  • If you are buying privately/from a person, they may ask for cash, or for you to put money in their bank account.

Sometimes, the things you paid for never arrive.

  • When you buy something online, you normally have to pay money first and then wait for them to send it to you.
  • Sometimes people take your money and do not send you anything.
  • Sometimes they might send you something that is different to what you thought you were buying.

Sometimes, people you shop with online will try to steal your personal information.

  • They may ask you for your passwords or details of your bank or savings accounts.
  • Sometimes, they will say they need to ‘verify’ your account or payment details to persuade you to give them this information. They will then use this to steal from you in the future without you knowing.

Sometimes, they will steal your identity and pretend to be you online to steal from someone else.

  • This is called identity fraud and is a big problem in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.

Sometimes, the people selling something may not be nice and may try to hurt you.

  • Never give anyone your phone number or email address without checking with a person you trust first.
  • Take someone with you to help if you need to pick up something that you have bought online.
  • Never give out your passwords or bank details to someone you talk to online. They can use these to pretend to be you. Or they may try to steal money from your bank account.
  • Only talk to the person you are buying things from, on the official shopping site.

Online selling

Selling things online can be fun and help you make money. But there are rules you need to follow.

  • Only sell something that belongs to you. Selling something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing and against the law.
  • Do not sell anything that is broken or doesn’t work. The person who buys it will be upset or angry. They may complain about you to the site you are selling on.
  • Do not sell anything that you may need to use in the future. Once you have sold it, you will not be able to get it back.

Stay safe while shopping and selling

  • Do not arrange for strangers to collect items you sell online from your home so they know where you live. Arrange to post it to them, or ask someone else to do it for you.
  • If you have to meet them, do it in public, like in a café. Take someone else you trust with you.
  • Never give out your phone number or email address. Only talk to them on the site you are using to sell your stuff.

Get help if something goes wrong

Talk to Netsafe, or ask someone you trust to talk to them, if someone you bought something from online, or sold something to, is doing any of the following:

  • bullying you.
  • threatening to harm you.
  • making you feel uncomfortable in other ways.
  • asking to meet you in real life without someone else there.

If you believe someone has stolen your personal or banking details after shopping online:

  • Phone toll-free on 0508 638 723. Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282.
  • Email [email protected]
  • Report it online at netsafe.org.nz/reportanincident

Report it

Netsafe offers a free service for people who are upset or hurt by something that happens online. We can explain how the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) may apply to you. This law deals with image based abuse, incitement to suicide and extremely offensive, abusive or harassing content.

What happens when you contact Netsafe

Netsafe will:

  • ask you questions to understand what has been happening to you. We can check if the HDCA may apply to you. This law deals with image based abuse, incitement to suicide and extremely offensive, abusive or harassing content
  • talk about ways to stop the abuse
  • suggest other people you can talk to who may be able to help

We will continue to add to our plain language pages, so please get in touch if there is an area you think we should cover. Email your suggestions to [email protected]

Plain language: Shopping and selling online (PDF, 1.8MB)


Follow us on social media and sign up to our enewsletter for alerts, news and tips.

Facebook   Twitter