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Online Shopping, Classifieds and Auction Scams

Scammers love the ease of online shopping too.

How the scam works
Consumers and businessess are increasingly buying and selling online. Unfortunately, scammers like to shop online for victims.

Scammers can create very convincing fake retailer websites that look like the real thing, including on social media like Facebook. The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment - be wary if you are asked to pay by wire transfer or other unusual methods.

An online auction scam involves a scammer claiming that you have a second chance to buy an item that you placed a bid on because the winner has pulled out. The scammer will ask you to pay outside of the auction sites secure payment facility; if you do, your money will be lost you wont get what you paid for and the auction site will not be able to help you.

The online classifieds scam is a common scam targeting both buyers and sellers. Buyers should beware of scammers who post fake ads on legitimate classifieds websites. The ads can be for anything from rental properties to pets, used cars or cameras, and will often be cheaply priced. If you show interest in the item, the scammer may claim that they are travelling or have moved overseas and that an agent will deliver the goods following receipt of payment. Following payment you will not receive the goods or be able to contact the seller.

For sellers, a classified scammer will respond to your advertisement with a generious offer. If you accept it, the scammer will pay by cheque or money order. However, the amount that you receive is for more than the agreed price. In this overpayment scam, the 'buyer' may tell you that this was a mistake and will ask you to refund the excess amount by money transfer. The scammer hopes that you will transfer the money before you discover that their cheque has bounced or that the money order was phony. You will lose the money, as well as the item you sold if you have already sent it.

Protect yourself

  • Find out exactly who you are dealing with. If it is an Australian retailer, you are in a much better position to sort out the problem if something goes wrong.
  • Check if the seller is reputable, has a refund policy and complaint handling services.
  • Avoid any arrangement 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 dont know or trust and never by email.
  • Only pay via the websites secure payment method - look for a web address starting with 'https' and a closed padlock symbol.
  • Never accept a cheque or money order for payment that is more than what you agreed upon or forward moeny on for anyone.

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