How to spot a fake online shop

The ACCC received more than 1,000 reports of online shopping scams last year alone
Fake online stores typically offer big-name brands at greatly reduced prices, the ACCC says.

Everyone loves an online discount, but some deals really are too good to be true.

More than 1,000 Australians were fleeced of more than $150,000 in total last year by fraudulent online ‘stores’, the consumer watchdog warns, with some sites appearing incredibly convincing with their offers of well-known brands and great prices.

“Scammers set up fake websites that look like genuine online stores, including professional-looking design, stolen logos, and even a ‘’ domain name and/or stolen ABNs,” Delia Rickard, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair, says.

Rickard says that while it’s good to remember the adage that “if something looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true,” there are other tell-tale signs buyers can look for to tell the difference between a fake site and a legitimate retailer.

“The biggest tip-off is the method of payment,” she says. “Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, a pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, even gift cards from well-known retailers. If you make a payment this way to a scammer, you’re highly unlikely to see that money again.”

The ACCC has some additional tips on how to avoid being scammed by a fake store.

  • Do independent research before buying, by checking online for reviews of the story by other consumers
  • Avoid any deal that asks for up-front payment via a money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency such as Bitcoin
  • Look for signs that the site offers secure payment services, such as a URL that starts hhtps and a closed padlock symbol, or that offers PayPal or something similar
  • Never sent your credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust by email
  • Check the site’s refund and returns policy
  • Never click on pop-up advertisements – they can download malware, spyware or viruses to your computer

Have you been lost money to an online store? How do you make sure your online purchases are secure?



  1. Tina  

    Face cream, they promised to sent me a sample, and needed $10 to send it, received a month supply instead and a letter telling me the next will arrive in a month and I will be billed some enormous price they did not disclose at the time! I even had to pay to send the so called samples out from NZ to Aus! I put on return to sender, hahaha, I was truly furious and reported them. Upshot was I got banned from the site, hahaha!

  2. David Aitken  

    Tina, Yes, your so correct, watch out for ….Luminique ..Bellaplex…Christina Brinkley brands, face creams etc my wife ordereda trial product, on line offer for $ 3 or $4 but they send larger amounts with BIG Invoices. When you get the product.. carefully open it with razor blade or similar if the invoice is Not outside, when you have invoice, there will be contact info there,
    Do not be frightened of writing a very very direct email, telling them this was not the offer and where to shove it, also inform them you are returning the package complete MARKED return to sender, dump it in the big red mail box ,AND WATCH YOUR BANK ACCOUNT as you used your card for the TRIAL offer ,sometimes the only way to stop things like this is to CANCEL your card and get a new one …..IN SHORT be hard on them, they will back down ….good luck

  3. Frank  

    shoes – half the usual price – online – purporting to be an Australian website.

    Clues – obvious in retrospect – including prices in Canadian dollars – and sub-links that didn’t work.

    But it came suggested by a significant other – shoes arrived but nothing like the pairs ordered – I then spend a month or more collecting evidence, signed documents and building the story to finally get a refund from my bank on my credit card.

    A lesson for reading more carefully next time – ‘it it seems too good to be true, it probably is’

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