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 ‘.com.au’ 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?