Australia’s scam reporting agency has issued a warning about a new type of scam tactic where cyber criminals are setting up fake online stores to swindle people out of their money.
“If you’re shopping online, look out for fake websites pretending to be real stores,” Scamwatch said in a tweet.
These websites pose as real online retailers selling popular items like clothing, jewellery, and electronics at too-good-to-be-true prices.
The fake websites are particularly deceiving because they use convincing website designs, logos, .com.au domain names and even use real but stolen Australian Business Numbers (ABNs), according to Scamwatch’s .
But if you make a payment to these fake websites, you might not ever see your money again.
“Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but they will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.”
Another way these scammers will snare shoppers is by using social media platforms to advertise their fake website.
“They open the store for a short time, often selling fake branded clothing or jewellery. After making a number of sales, the stores disappear,” Scamwatch said.
“Do not trust a site just because you have seen it advertised or shared on social media.”
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How to spot a fake online store
Here are some dead give-aways that the online store you’re about to make a purchase from might be fraudulent – but one in particular should set alarm bells ringing in your head straight away.
“The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment,” said Scamwatch.
“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.”
Here are other signs that the seller isn’t what they seem:
The prices of products are “unbelievably” low, or have incredible benefits or features that seem too good to be true,
The seller is demanding immediate up-front payment to access any special deals or give-aways,
The social media profiles for the store are very new, selling products at very low prices, and don’t have much information about delivery,
The retailer doesn’t have solid information on privacy; terms and conditions of use; dispute resolution; or contact details,
The retailer might be overseas and doesn’t allow for payment through secure channels like PayPal or credit cards.
“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, like Bitcoin,” Scamwatch said.
“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.”
Also look out for URLs that start with “https” and the closed padlock icon.