- Online shopping scams
- Online Shopping: How To Avoid Scams & Fraud
- Shopping online
Online shopping scams
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 asoverpayment scams.
- A product is advertised at an unbelievably low price, or advertised to have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true.
- The other party insists on immediate payment, or payment by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. They may insist that you pay up-front for vouchers before you can access a cheap deal or a give-away.
- An online auction seller and any initial bidders have a very poor rating, or the seller wants to complete the sale outside of the auction website. If you do this, you lose any protection offered by the website operator.
- An online retailer does not provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details. The seller may be based overseas, or the seller does not allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.
- Check if the website or online auction site has a refund or returns policy, and that their policies sound fair. The better online shopping and auction sites have detailed complaint or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong.
- When using retail websites, find out exactly who you are dealing with. If it is an Australian company, you are in a much better position to sort out the problem if something goes wrong.
- When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal. Think twice before using virtual currencies such as bitcoin—they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods so you can’t get your money back once you send it.
- When buying from an online classifieds website, only pay when you have physically inspected or received the goods. If you have any doubts about the product or the person selling it, don’t go ahead with the deal.
- When using online auction websites, check all comments about the seller you are considering buying from. Never trade outside of the auction website.
- If you are buying from an online auction you may want to use an ‘escrow’ service. Escrow services collect your payment, then release payment to the trader or seller only when you have confirmed that the product has arrived and is what you paid for. There is usually a small fee for this service. Only use a reputable escrow service—online auction sites may provide a list of recommended providers.
- Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.
A lot of us are familiar with online shopping. Whether we’re too busy or we simply enjoy being able to browse and purchase from the comfort of our beds, we’re likely to have gone online at least once within the last couple months to place an order. But while the accessibility of these online shops can be very intriguing, there’s also a danger that is present with any kind of online money transaction…you never really know what you paid for or who you’re dealing with, especially with the smaller retailers and international ones. There are quite a few sites which have popped up and appear to be legit…only to send you items you did not ask for, or not even send them at all. It’s happened to thousands of people online, as you will soon learn, and it could happen to you! If you’re worried about falling victim to online scams, then you may want to keep a few of the following things in mind…
In the recent while, there’s been a lot of clothing and accessory based stores popping up with unbeatable prices and really appealing items. Deals such as 6 bucks for a cute dress or sweater seems like the dream doesn’t it? Well, if it’s too good to be true…it probably is. See, a lot of these Asian based companies are actually a front for one particular scam. What happens is you think you’re paying a great deal for an outfit, and then what you end up getting is either a) nothing or more commonly b) cheap fabric, too small of a size, discolored, ripped cloth that doesn’t even resemble the item you ordered. This is a real thing that’s been happening.
There’s been a Facebook group (or a number of them) which has originated as a result of these online scams, warning shoppers to stay away from particular online “stores’, as they’re not as legitimate as they look. For a full list you can check out the group below. These “stores” seem to be a place where you can purchase anything for extremely low prices and shipping…and they’ve got a TON of Facebook likes, so they must be legit right?! Not in the slightest. The social media popularity of sites such as RoseGal, Sammygirl, Dresslily and Zaful has been faked/bought, and they don’t actually represent many happy customers. The online reviews for items on this website have also been altered, with any negative review being hidden through their “approval” process. A simple Facebook or Google search of the store name will tell you that there are a LOT of unhappy customers, rather than satisfied ones when it comes to these “stores”.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA BEFORE BUYING
Your best bet with these Asian based outlet stores that have not been confirmed or don’t have a successful reputation is to stay away. The clothing you do receive usually will be too small (based on Western sizing) and the material will not be exactly like what you ordered. If you do still want to purchase, try looking at Ebay and the highly rated sellers on there for discount clothing coming to you from Asia. Before making a purchase, make sure to do a quick Google, Twitter and Facebook search of the store name and check out some reviews…if it’s not legit, then chances are someone’s already been scammed by them.
Here’s two Facebook Groups made to elaborate on these scams and customers posting their real reviews AND what they received.
If your store of choice isn’t on these lists, try typing in “Store Name* Scam” or “Store Name* Review” on Facebook/Twitter.
Another great way to ensure your financial safety is to only use credit cards with fraud protection, as they are more likely to be able to sort it out for you if you do end up getting involved with scam websites. Based on shopper’s experiences with these scam sites and Paypal, there’s a lot of fuss and back and forth in order to get any refund, so you may want to save yourself the stress and worry by avoiding using payment methods which do not enable you to easily access refunds or fraud protection.
Your Web browser can actually recognize some fake sites upon arrival. If you are on a Web page, look for sites that start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://), in order to ensure your safety. You will also see a lock icon appear either next to the URL in the address bar or at the bottom of your Web Browser.
PLAY IT SAFE
The most important piece of information you need when online shopping is to listen to your gut instinct. If something seems too good to be true, you should be cautious. It’s a hassle to email about refunds or returns with scam companies especially, so to save yourself trouble focus on large retailers on in person purchases, and avoid these discounted “too good to be true” prices you may see advertised across the Web. You should also be checking your statements and Paypal charges on a regular basis to ensure there are no strange or false charges on your account.
While online shopping can be easy and convenient for us as shoppers, it is also just as easy for scammers and fraudulent “businesses” to access our money. So stay informed and never purchase something you aren’t 100% sure is coming from a trusted retailer!
Source: Adeline Avenue
Online businesses selling goods and services must:
- ensure products and services meet Australian safety regulations
- not mislead you or hide costs and other details from you
- compete fairly to ensure a variety of choices on quality and price
- give you automatic guarantees with the right to ask for a repair, replacement, refund, cancellation or compensation as appropriate if there is a problem
- have the right to sell you a product–it mustn’t be stolen and must belong to the business or individual and not come with any outstanding debts.
Shopping online with an overseas business
If you buy from an online seller based overseas, you should be aware that you may experience practical difficulties in obtaining a remedy from them.
Our Scamwatch website provides tips on how to spot online shopping scams. See below
Also, you should be aware of your rights when buying parallel imports online (i.e. products that you buy from a seller who does not have specific permission from the manufacturer to sell those products in the Australian marketplace).
Protecting your online shopping rights
These tips will help protect your rights when shopping online.
- Only consider buying from online sellers in Australia or overseas that:
- have a good reputation
- display clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds
- display clear systems for protecting the security and privacy of your personal and financial details
- display their business registration number, phone and fax numbers and physical address.
- Before buying, check terms and conditions carefully so you know what you’re paying for and that there are no hidden costs or restrictions.
- Before you start, ensure your computer, tablet or phone is secure by installing or updating security and anti-virus software.
- Shop around. Ask questions and ask for pictures so you know what you are getting. Compare prices on different sites.
- Before paying:
- beware of sellers asking for your bank PIN or password. Never buy from these sellers. Report them to the ACCC.
- check that the site is secure. It should have a padlock symbol and an address starting with https://
- ensure that you can check the progress of your order online
- consider using a third-party escrow agent to pay for valuable items as they’ll hold the payment in trust until you receive and accept the item.
- Keep copies of all documents, including electronic records of auction bids, item descriptions, emails and receipts in case there is a problem later.
- If there is a problem, email the seller outlining the issue and how you want it resolved.
- If you paid by credit card and you did not receive the product or service, contact your bank and ask them to reverse an unauthorised charge.