If you’re shopping online for a Mother’s Day gift be alert! Scammers use online classifieds and auction sites to post scam ads, taking your money but leaving you without that perfect gift for mum!

Scam classified ads can appear to be for anything from puppies to cars. The scammer will often advertise the item at a low price; generally much lower than comparable items advertised on the same site.

When you show an interest, the scammer often claims that they are travelling or have moved overseas and that an agent will deliver the goods following receipt of your payment. However, once you send money you won’t receive the goods and will not be able to contact the seller.

Online auction scams operate in a similar way and often occur when a scammer sells you a faulty or worthless product. Scammers may pretend to be selling authentic branded items, that when delivered are obvious imitations. They may not even deliver the item at all.

Most online auction sites put a lot of effort into spotting scammers, so scammers will often try to get you to make a deal outside of the site’s secure payment facility. If you do this, you will lose any protections that the site operator offers to their users. Following payment you may receive a fake email receipt claiming to be from the website’s payment system provider, however, once you send money, you may not receive the goods.
Alternatively scammers may claim that the winner of an auction you were bidding in has pulled out, and then offer to sell the item to you. Once they have your money, you will never hear from them again and unfortunately the auction site may not be able to help you.

Warning signs

  • An item is advertised on an online classifieds site at a very low price, often lower than comparable items advertised on the same website.
  • The seller often claims to be overseas.
  • For online auction scams, the seller will ask you to complete the sale outside of the auction site, e.g. by electronic funds transfer or a wire service.
  • Following payment you may receive a fake email receipt falsely claiming to be from the auction website’s secure payment provider.

Protect yourself

  • Be cautious—if the advertised price of an item looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t trust the legitimacy of an ad just because it appears on a reputable online classifieds or auction website—scammers post fake ads in these too.
  • Where possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Do an internet search using the exact wording in the ad—many well-known scams can be found this way.
  • Request a number of photos of the item from the seller, if they refuse it may be that they have stolen a photo from a genuine ad and have no others.


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

More information:

Check out our Auction and shopping scams and Classifieds scams pages for more information.

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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.