SCAMwatch is warning people to be on the lookout this festive season not just for flying reindeer and bargain gifts but also scam surprises wrapped up as the real deal.

Scammers like to take advantage of the busy and charitable nature of the festive season to slip under your radar. Some scams to watch out for include online shopping scams, fake delivery scams and charity scams.

SCAMwatch urges you to watch out not just for Santa Claus, but unwanted surprises too. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How these scams work

Online shopping scams
If you are planning to buy gifts online, watch out for scammers. Common online shopping scams are:

  • Not getting what you paid for – scammers sell a product and send a faulty or inferior quality item, or nothing at all.
  • Online auction scams – scammers claim that you have a second chance to buy an item that you unsuccessfully bid on because the winner pulled out. The scammer lures you offline and outside of the auction site’s secure payment facility to transfer them money that you’ll never see again.
  • Online classified scams – buyers should beware of scammers posting fake ads on legitimate classifieds websites.  Sellers should also beware of scammers who respond to ads with a generous offer, then ‘accidentally’ overpay by cheque or money order. The ‘buyer’ hopes you will refund the excess amount by money transfer before the original cheque or money order bounces/ fails.

Fake delivery scams
Unexpected delivery notification? Think twice before paying up to avoid a nasty surprise.

  • You receive notification from what appears to be a postal service provider that they made an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a parcel.
  • The ‘company’ informs you that in order to have the parcel redelivered, you will need to pay a fee.
  • If you send them money, it will be lost as well as the parcel as it never existed.

Charity scams

If you are looking to give to a cause or those in need, make sure that your money goes to a legitimate charity and not a scammer.

  • You are approached in person, by email or mail by someone claiming to be collecting donations on behalf of a legitimate cause or charity, or a fictitious but authentic-sounding charity.
  • The scammer may use emails, letters or have developed websites that use official-looking logos and words to make them look genuine. The scammer may also play on your emotions by claiming to collect for a cause that will secure your sympathy.
  • If you pay, your money will not only be lost, but much-needed donations will have been diverted away from legitimate charities and causes.

Protect yourself

  • Online shopping scams – If you’re buying gifts online, do your research to check if the seller is reputable, find out what protection the website offers against fraud, and only pay via a secure payment method – look for a web address starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol. If an item’s price tag seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Fake delivery scams – If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a parcel delivery notification, verify the sender by using their official contact details to contact them directly. Never use contact details provided by caller or sender – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Charity scams – If you have been approached to make a donation, first contact the charity directly. Since 3 December 2012 charities have been able to register with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) – visit the ACNC website for more information and to search the ACNC Register for a registered charity.


See SCAMwatch’s online auction and shopping scams and  charity scams sections, and radar on parcel delivery scams, for more information on how these scams work and how to avoid them.

You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

You can also contact the ACNC on 13 ACNC (13 22 62) or email if you have a concern about a registered charity.

More information

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit

Read more

Scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money after natural disasters or major events.
Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.