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Online shopping and classifieds scams

Scammers use various tactics to steal your personal information and ultimately commit identity theft. 

There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from online shopping and classifieds scams.

Scammers set up fake websites or falsely advertise products on a genuine retailer website or on social media.

Many fraudulent sellers offer luxury items such as popular brands of clothing, jewellery and electronics at very low prices. Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but they will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.

In 2018, over a third of Australian households shopped online.1 In 2020, cities across Australia went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving many people to shop online.

These scams are not limited to online retailers, scammers often set up fake ads on classified websites and trick you into thinking you’re dealing with a legitimate contact. Scammers also pretend to be genuine buyers, so it’s just as important to be careful when selling on classifieds.

While shopping or selling online has its benefits, it’s important to take practical steps to keep your personal information safe.

Protect yourself from online shopping and classifieds scams


1. Research2. Stop & think3. Pay secure4. Don't overshare
Shop from known and trusted retailers or do your research on a seller before buying from them. Do an online search using the exact wording in the ad, many well- known scams can be found this way. Search online for independent reviews about the seller. Don’t trust a site or an ad just because it’s been advertised on social media, appears in a reputable newspaper, classified website or claims it’s endorsed by a celebrity you recognise.
Be wary of any offer that seems too good to be true. Don’t rush or be pressured by ‘limited offers’ or end-of-sale ‘countdowns’— scammers always try to create a sense of urgency.Use secure payment methods such as credit card or PayPal.Avoid paying by non- secure methods such as wire or bank transfers, money orders, pre- loaded gift cards and electronic currencies like Bitcoin. It’s rare to recover money sent this way. If you’re a seller be wary of any buyers claiming they’ve overpaid and asking for a refund of the excess, known as an ‘overpayment scam’. Scammers falsely make it appear as though they’ve sent you money. Instead you send the scammer the ‘excess’ money and possibly the product you’re selling.If you’re signing up for a loyalty program or creating an online shopping account, limit the amount of personal information you share. Consider checking out your shopping as a guest or leaving non- mandatory data fields blank.

1Source: https://auspost.com.au/content/dam/auspost_corp/media/documents/inside-australian-online-shopping- ecommerce-report.pdf

Content supplied by the Scams Awareness Network, a group of Australian and New Zealand government agencies with responsibility for consumer protection and policing in scams, cyber safety and fraud.