Gabi Power 09 November 2022 10:38:56 AEDT 7 MIN READ

What are Online Shopping Scams?

According to ScamWatch, from January to September of 2022, Online Shopping Scams were the 3rd most commonly reported scam type in Australia and cost citizens more than $6.6 million, with 43% of reports ending in financial loss. 

With more than 5 million Australian households shopping online each month, it’s no surprise that this is a popular avenue for scammers. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of online shopping scams have skyrocketed. In 2021, there were more than 20,000 reports of the scam type, totalling over $8 million in losses, and it’s looking as though 2022 will rival these numbers, particularly with Click Frenzy now underway, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales fast approaching, and Christmas just around the corner.  

Taking advantage of the number of consumers who choose to do their shopping online, scammers set up fake online retail stores, sometimes stealing logos, names, and ABNs of genuine brands, and often will sell trending items, luxury goods, clothing, jewellery, or electronics at a super low price. However, as you’ve been told a thousand times before; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many items never show, and those that do are usually not the quality (or the brand) that you were expecting.  

Social media has only aided the growth of these scams. Now scammers are able to sell these items through platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok, target their chosen demographic through paid ads, and once they’ve got enough sales, the store will disappear without a trace and the customers never receive their goods.  

According to ScamWatch, “The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. 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.”  

Other signs that it could be a scam include:  

  • Prices that seem unrealistically low for the item you’re buying  
  • Time pressures, such as ‘limited offers’, closing down sales, or end-of-sale countdowns  
  • The website does not allow for payment through secure platforms such as PayPal or credit cards 
  • The retailer does not have typical information such as contact details, privacy statements, or terms and conditions  

If you’re ever in doubt about the legitimacy of an online retailer, one of the best ways to avoid online shopping scams is to do a Google search before purchasing. A simple query of “is [shop name] a scam” will typically produce results from websites like Trustpilot, Product Review, or even Quora and Reddit. Don’t trust the reviews on the website in question – they can easily be faked.   

You can also:  

  • Check comments on a store’s social media ads and posts to see what others are saying  
  • Avoid paying via wire transfer, money order, digital currencies such as bitcoin, or even debit card if you’re not familiar with the website. Credit cards and payment platforms such as PayPal offer buyer protection, so you can get your money back if the item never shows 
  • If you’re purchasing from websites such as Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, don’t make any payments before seeing the item, and check the seller’s reviews 
  • Never give credit card details to someone you don’t know or trust online 

If you believe you have fallen victim to an online shopping scam, learn where to report it here 

Keep Your Business Protected 

Prevention is always better than a cure, and the best defence is for your businesses to proactively boost its cyber resilience levels to avoid threats landing in inboxes in the first place. The fact that a staggering 94% of malware attacks are delivered by email, makes email an extremely important vector for your business to fortify. 

No one vendor can stop all threats, so don’t leave your business exposed. If you are using Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, you should also have third-party solutions in place to mitigate your risk. For example, using a specialist cloud email security solution like MailGuard to complement Microsoft 365.  

For more information about how MailGuard can help defend your inboxes, reach out to our team at . 


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