Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.
How this scam works
While many online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers.
Fake retailer websites
Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and stolen Australian Business Number (ABN).
The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, but if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.
Online auction sites
Most online auction sites (e.g. Ebay) have strict policies to ensure their customers are not scammed. Scammers know this, so they will often try to get people to make a deal outside the auction site. Scammers may claim that the winner of an auction you were bidding in has pulled out, and offer the item for sale to you. Once they have your money, you will never hear from them again and the auction site will not be able to help you.
Online classified websites
Online classified websites promote the sale of goods and services, but allow sellers and potential buyers to negotiate on a price outside of the website.
Scammers may pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads for anything, such as rental properties, pets, used cars, boats, bikes, caravans and horses. The scammers may advertise items at a price much lower than comparable items advertised on the same site. These are known as classified scams.
Scammers may also pose as buyers, send you a cheque for more than the required payment on an item, and then ask you to refund the difference. These are known as overpayment scams.
List of Scams
Don’t let kitten scammers get their claws into your money. It’s a new version of the age-old puppy scam. Scammers advertise a puppy or kitten for sale in the classifieds either in newspapers or online, usually providing an email address as a contact point. The animal being advertised is often a popular breed and the asking price is lower than the market value. The seller requests that payment for a crate and shipping of the kitten or puppy be sent by wire transfer. Sadly the animal never arrives and Consumer Protection has received reports of monetary loss from many heartbroken would-be pet owners.
It is possible to buy almost anything over the internet these days. Unfortunately, scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers. Scammers can pretend to be selling a product—often very cheaply—just so they can steal your credit card or bank account details. Similarly, they may take your money but send you a faulty or worthless product instead—or even nothing at all.
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