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Troubling warning over Google Search tool: ‘Dead giveaway’

Aussies have been told to double-check the results that pop up in Google searches.

A composite image of a the Google search homepage and a copy of the scam website showing up as a sponsored link.
The ACCC has warned some Google search results may actually be scam websites. (Source: Getty / Scamwatch)

Aussies have been warned to watch out for scammers impersonating well-known websites and brands that appear in Google search results.

In fact, even the sponsored links that appear at the top of the search results page could be a scam.

“Watch out for scam websites that mimic well-known brands. Remember, sponsored websites can be fake, so stop and check the website address to make sure you're visiting the real online store. Super-cheap prices can also be a dead giveaway,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch said.

Aussies have already lost more than $3.7 million to online shopping scams so far this year. That comes after more than $9.2 million was lost last year.

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“Scammers set up stores that look real, or profiles to sell popular or luxury items. Common products scammers try to deceive you into paying for include toys, BBQs, gym equipment, clothing, shoes, and phones,” Scamwatch said.

“They will offer products on their own fake websites, or on a cloned or copy website of a popular store. They also sell through their social media profile or store, or through a profile on a legitimate selling platform like Amazon.”

How to check if a website is fake

Scamwatch said Aussies should pay close attention to website URLs for red flags.

These include:

  • Multiple dashes or symbols in the domain name

  • Domain that imitates a business, such as “Ap9le”

  • Domains for Australian businesses that don’t end in .com or .com.au

Scamwatch said anyone feeling concerned about the legitimacy of a website should also check the contact page. No contact information is a sign the website is probably a scam.

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