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Beware of online shopping scams

With the pandemic causing us to do things differently, there has been a significant shift towards online shopping – and scammers are taking full advantage.

Scammers often use highly sophisticated fake websites, impersonating genuine businesses, or create profiles and advertisements on classified sites and social media platforms to trick people into buying from them.

The top products reported in online scams, by highest losses, include pets, vehicles, heavy machinery, shipping containers, computers, phones and jewellery.

Too often, once the order is placed and payment has been made, the scammers cease all communications, the goods are not delivered, or arrive vastly different to what was advertised.

Being vigilant when shopping online is the best way to arm yourself against scammers. We’ve rounded up some of the top tips and tricks for spotting a scam and safeguarding your shopping efforts against them.

Warning signs

To avoid being caught out, it’s important people are aware of the warning signs. Be sure to watch out for:

  • Products with a too-good-to-be-true offer or significantly lower price compared to other retailers
  • Promises of amazing or unbelievable features or benefits – for example, weight loss pills
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • A sense of urgency such as a “limited time offer”
  • Vendors that request payment via a non-secure method such as bank transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or third-party payment platform.

Payment method risks

Some payment types are riskier than others, making it virtually impossible for banks to help you get your money back.
Did you know that:

  • Bank transfers can be almost instant when using OSKO or a PayID. This makes recovery chances slim. There is also no ‘destination account match’; so the sending bank cannot validate the account details to confirm it matches the intended recipient.
  • Gift cards are as untraceable as cash. Remember, no legitimate company will ever use this payment method.
  • Using cryptocurrency in a person-to-person transaction with no bank involvement is also immediate, and the recipient is unidentifiable. This means little to no Buyer Protection. It is also usually offshore, making tracing difficult to impossible.
  • Third Party Online Payment Platforms like PayPal offer ‘Buyer Protection guarantees’ but these do not always cover money transfers when performed person-to-person like via a ‘friends and family’ payment.

How to protect yourself

Here are our top tips for keeping yourself safe from online shopping scammers.

  • If the offer sounds too good to be true it usually is.
  • Don’t trust the legitimacy of an ad, even if it appears on a reputable website – scammers create fake ads too!
  • Be mindful of poor spelling and grammar – sometimes it’s the first sign the offer isn’t genuine.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via non-secure methods.
  • If someone requests you pay using a ‘friends and family payment’ on a third-party payment platform, refuse.
  • Never send money or give credit card or online bank account details to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • Navigate to an online store via a web browser. Never click on a link in an email, SMS or online ad.
  • Check the web address starts with ‘https’ and has a closed padlock symbol. While this doesn’t guarantee it’s not a scam, it shows the site is using secured processes to protect itself from hackers.

If you’re worried you might be caught out by a scam, call our Contact Centre team for advice on 1300 004 863.

You can also learn how to recognise and avoid scams at