Don’t get caught by shopping scams

28th Jun 2022

What’s an online shopping scam?
More than one-third of Australian households shop online. Taking advantage of this trend, scammers are setting up fake websites and deceiving people into buying from them. Once the order is placed and payment made, shoppers might receive a fake, inferior product compared to what was promised, or nothing at all.
Classified scams are a subset of this type of scam, where scammers pose as genuine sellers, posting fake ads on either a classifieds website, newspaper, or via email or social media.
How to avoid being
• Be wary of any offer that seems too good to be true, such as luxury items or popular brands being offered at unusually low prices
• Don’t rush or be pressured by ‘limited offers’ or end-of-sale ‘countdowns’ – scammers always try to create a sense of urgency
• Online stores or classifieds that request you use non-secure payment methods. These include wire or bank transfers, money orders, preloaded gift cards and electronic currencies like Bitcoin. It’s rare you’ll be able to recover money sent this way.
How to protect yourself
• Navigate directly to an online store using your web browser, rather than by clicking an email or social media link
• Google the merchant, its online store and its products to check their reviews
• Read the comments on a store’s social media ads to see what other people have to say about them
• Regularly check your statements.
If you’ve been shopping online, keep an eye on your transaction history and report anything suspicious as soon as possible. A small, unauthorised charge can be the first sign of credit card theft – scammers often do it to check if your account is active.
• If you’re not familiar with the site, be cautious of unbelievably low prices, missing privacy policies, terms and conditions or refund information, or sites that limit your payment options. It should easy enough to contact customer service if you need help – even better if they have a phone number or physical address. A quick web search can surface reviews and other buyer’s experiences.
• Think twice before connecting to free public Wi-Fi networks. Cybercriminals like to lurk on public networks and intercept your activities, or even set up rogue hotspots for you to connect to, so never shop or bank online using public Wi-Fi.
• Before you browse or shop online, ensure your computer’s anti-virus is up-to-date.
• If you need to create accounts with online stores, make sure you use strong and unique passwords – don’t reuse your internet banking, email or social media passwords
• Generally, debit cards don’t offer the same level of buyer protection as other payment methods, so it’s recommended to pay with a credit card or payment system (e.g. PayPal).
• If shopping for second hand items from social media or another online marketplace, ask as many questions as possible upfront, look at the seller’s profile and past feedback; Never share your bank account details or passwords, or transfer a deposit without seeing what you’re buying first.