The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s Scamwatch website reveals online shopping scams are on the rise. As of March 2021, this year alone they had already received over 4000 reports to their website representing losses totalling over $1.7 million.
CHOICE have shared some clever ways to avoid a scam website.
How to spot a scam website
CHOICE spoke to Delia Rickard, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) deputy chair, and Scamwatch to put together an inofrmative list of ways you might be able to recognise a scam website.
The URL name is unusual.
“Scammers may use a URL that is very similar to a known legitimate website but with small, easy-to-miss differences, such as an extra dash, underscore, a capital I instead of lowercase L or an extra letter.”Delia Rickard, deputy chair, ACCC
The price is too good to be true.
“Red flags for deals that seem ‘too good to true’ include product advertising at an unbelievably low price or which feature amazing magical benefits, as well as the seller creating a sense of urgency to purchase the product as it’s a one-time only offer so you don’t miss out,” says Rickard.
It’s missing information and has spelling errors and poor phrasing.
“Check if the website has a ‘Contact us’ page and if it does, that the information is actually provided. Consumers need to be cautious when a website only offers customers an online contact form.”
It has damning reviews.
“[Check out] Google reviews of the website to see what others have had to say about it,” suggests Rickard.
“But also watch out for fake reviews. Some tell-tale warning signs are, if multiple reviews are written word-for-word or by the same user it could be a sign of a scam. If the review is not describing the product that is being sold, it may not be legitimate.”
It has unusual payment methods.
“Be sure to use a secure payment method such as credit card or PayPal,” Rickard warns. “The biggest tip-off that it’s a scam is the payment method. Scammers sometimes steer you to pay using unusual methods such as money order, pre-loaded money card or wire transfer. If you make a payment this way to a scammer, you’re highly unlikely to see that money again.”
It’s missing a padlock and trust seal.
“Webpages that have a secure sockets layer (SSL) properly installed have a green padlock next to the URL”
It’s an Australian site with no ABN.
“ABNs are a possible sign of legitimacy but ABNs can be misused or stolen. You can check ABNs online at abr.business.gov.au,” Ms Rickard advises.