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Fake Christmas sales prompt urgent warning to shoppers: '$150 down the drain'

A woman using her phone while sitting at a laptop, with a snippet of the Country Road scam inset.
Dozens of shoppers were recently caught out by a scam website imitating that of Australian retailer Country Road. (Source: Getty/Facebook)

Aussie are being warned to be extra vigilant when shopping online as fake stores scam shoppers out of hundreds of dollars.

Jacqueline Jayne, security awareness advocate for the Asia-Pacific (APAC) at KnowBe4, said it was becoming extremely easy for scammers to take advantage of shoppers, especially during Black Friday sales and in the lead-up to Christmas.

"Cybercriminals can create an ad that looks and feels just like a real one, using the correct logos, fonts and imagery," Jayne told Yahoo Finance.

Online sale scams circulating

A Country Road Warehouse scam website recently caught out hundreds of unsuspecting online shoppers.

Sharing her experience on Facebook, one woman wrote: "I've realised I got sucked into the scam Country Road outlet store sale.

"I've never been tricked like this before. I got a shipping notification that matches up with the transaction. When I check the order though it says not shipped and Australia Post says there's nothing linked to the tracking... $150 down the drain."

Country Road sale scam
Sure signs of a scam are spelling errors and broken English throughout the terms and conditions on a fake sale site. (Source: Facebook)

The woman's post had since been updated to say she was able to recoup part of the money lost, but said other buyers should be aware.

Multiple shoppers said they too had fallen victim to the convincing sale scam after purchasing from the imitation site.

"Yes, definitely a scam. I've lost $145, funny thing is they kept answering my emails telling me they couldn't find my order. Apparently, they could find it to take my money," another person added.

The official Country Road website warns shoppers to be aware of fraudulent websites.

"Please only purchase via the official Country Road website domains - countryroad.com.au, countryroad.co.nz, countryroad.com, outlet.countryroad.com.au, davidjones.com and theiconic.com.au," a message on the website states.

Avoiding social media scams

Jayne advised shoppers to pay extra attention to websites advertised on social media.

"Approximately 1.91 billion people log into Facebook daily, which is an extraordinary advertising reach, and its global advertising audience is 2.168 billion," she said.

"With numbers like that, it becomes very easy to see why cybercriminals would use Facebook to scam its users. Scam ads can hide very easily amongst the legitimate ads."

Instead of clicking on social media ads, Jayne recommended visiting the brand's official website directly to shop.

"To shop safely online, you should only purchase from official websites, use a third-party payment option - such as PayPal or Google Pay - and get a separate credit card from a different financial institution than your regular one with a small limit that you only use for online purchases," she said.

"These are the best ways minimse the damage if the worst happens."

What to do if you've been scammed

If you fall victim to an online scam, there are ways to retrieve your money, but you need to act fast. Jayne advised consumers to do the following if they realised they'd been scammed.

  1. If you paid with a credit card, call your financial institution and let them know. You might need to block all your cards to ensure nothing else is stolen or the card is used again.

  2. Report it at ScamWatch.

  3. If you clicked on a Facebook ad, report it on Facebook. You will find a report option on every page, post, and direct message. Be aware that you may not get the response you are hoping for, because there is only so much Facebook (Meta) can do.

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