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Instagram trade brisk but comes with security risk

Date

Sarah Whyte

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Gun for sale.

Gun for sale.

IT WAS designed to allow users to instantly share, finesse and curate pictures but the photo-sharing app Instagram is becoming a thriving marketplace.

Offering clothing, jewellery, bags and shoes to more unusual offerings of puppies, cars (and their various parts), protein powder and even guns, hundreds of thousands of users worldwide are bypassing traditional online shopping sites such as eBay and Gumtree.

On Instagram, the hashtag ''#sale'' returns more than half a million results, ''#selling'' has 58,000, while ''#puppiesforsale'' has about 2000 entries. But online security experts are concerned about safety and privacy issues when consumers start deviating from secure websites to unknown sellers - often sharing personal details over unsecured emails.

Puppies for sale.

Puppies for sale.

The director of the centre for internet safety at the University of Canberra, Alastair MacGibbon, said online transactions and e-commerce should be restricted to websites that protect consumers from scams, payment fraud and include return policies.

''The caution I would give is places like eBay … and classifieds websites are set up with security and protection,'' Mr MacGibbon, who used to work for eBay, said. ''I get worried when I see hybrids.''

Marian Merritt, an online safety advocate for the internet security company Norton, said she was concerned about the growing number of hackers who steal personal information to gain a new network of targets.

''People are perverting the original intent of these services in ways that couldn't be anticipated,'' she said.

Entrepreneurial users are not the only ones trying to make a sale from Instagram photos. The app, owned by Facebook, faced backlash last week when several changes were made to its privacy policy.

The alterations included wording that was going to allow members' pictures to be used by advertisers without any compensation.

But for Sydney jewellery designer Alexandra Redmond, 25, Instagram has been a launching pad for her small business. ''So much business has come from it,'' said Ms Redmond, who lives in Collaroy.

For most transactions Ms Redmond emails her bank details but she is looking into more secure payment methods such as PayPal.

Another Instagram seller, Melbourne student Aurora Shmith, 17, started selling dresses, shoes and bags on Instagram with two school friends to earn some extra holiday cash. ''So far it has been a great success,'' she said.

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