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Buying, selling and online sales scams

dog-shoppingFor sale advertisements in newspapers and on websites have become a fertile hunting ground for scammers.

Scammers are advertising non-existent goods, hoping to use their so-called bargain to fleece you of your hard-earned money.

They are advertising anything from puppies to boats, cars and car parts to concert tickets, sometimes masquerading as Australians to lull you into a false sense of security.

A typical example is the “Puppy for Sale” scam. The scammers advertise the puppy in a newspaper or a website, listing a telephone number and email address as a contact point. The telephone number is fake so you are forced to use the email.

The puppy needs to be shipped to you because it is located in a regional town, interstate or overseas. The scammer asks that the money be wired or even transferred to a bank account. You send the money, but the puppy never arrives.

Sometimes scammers hijack other people’s advertisements and online seller or feedback profiles to fool you into believing they are a legitimate and reputable seller. If you do get conned, notify the website operators immediately so they can remove the advertisement.

Sometimes the scammers ask you to transfer the money through a secure payment system. However, the site they refer you to is fake or a copycat site.

Buying something sight unseen from strangers is always risky – particularly over the Internet.

Always try to verify whom you are dealing with and to get someone independent to inspect the goods. For example, if you are buying a car then pay for an independent inspection by a mechanic.

When buying from a commercial shopping website, make sure it is a legitimate business and is a secure site. Scammers have been known to establish false sites. Independently verify that the supplier is a legitimate business with the correct address and phone number. Check that there is adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution and contact details.

Selling to strangers online can also be risky. Scammers have been known to use fake cheques, money orders and stolen credit cards. See our section on overpayment scams.

Fight back

Scammers are advertising non-existent goods in newspapers and on websites, hoping to use their so-called bargain to entice you into sending them money.

  • Always try and buy locally.

  • Be aware that scammers masquerade as locals by hijacking other people’s advertisements and online seller profiles; or by including fake Australian telephone numbers or addresses.

  • If buying through an online auction or commercial website, read their fraud prevention section for tips on protecting yourself.

  • Get someone independent to check the goods before handing over money.

  • Do not give your credit card or bank account details to strangers;

  • Do not wire transfer money to strangers – it is almost impossible to track the money.

  • Use secure payment systems. Be aware that scammers sometimes refer you to fake look-alike websites.

  • Be wary of “too good to be true” offers or bargains. A cheap price is often used to lure victims in to a scam.

  • If using a shopping website, make sure the business is legitimate and the site is secure. Independently verify their street address and check that there is adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution and contact details.

  • Rely on your instincts. If something sounds fishy, don’t fall for the bait. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

  • If you do discover a fake advertisement on an auction or commercial website, contact the site immediately so they can pull the advertisement.

  • Watch out for overpayment scams. Click here to find out more.

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