Always check that you are paying the correct people or businesses when buying or selling products and services online.

Scammers set up fake websites or profiles on actual retailer sites. They then offer products or services at prices that are too good to be true. They also post fake ads and fake reviews. They may use stolen logos, a .com.au domain name and stolen Australian Business Number (ABN). These scams are hard to spot.

Scammers also pose as businesses that you know and trust. Then they send you fake bills or by changing the payee details on an invoice you are expecting.

Warning signs it might be a scam

  • A seller offers products at an unbelievably low price. They claim they have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true.
  • An online seller doesn’t have any terms and conditions, ABN or privacy policy on their website.
  • A buyer willing to buy an expensive product you are selling without viewing it in person.
  • A buyer sending a cheque or payment that is more than the agreed price. Then they ask you to refund the overpaid amount.
  • Getting an invoice for a product or service you haven’t bought.
  • You are told that you must pay by money order, pre-loaded card or pay to several different PayIds or accounts.
  • The payment to the person or business you think you are paying, doesn’t match the identity of the account holder.

Steps you can take to protect yourself

  • Stop and check you are buying from a real store and not a fake website. Look for the ABN and check it on ABN look up: ABN Lookup (business.gov.au):
  • Be wary of social media stores that are new and selling products at very low prices.
  • Check that a website you want to buy from has information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution and contact details, plus a secure payment service like PayPal or credit card.

Check the details

  • Search for the official site of the organisation. Don’t assume that the first search result that comes up in an internet search is the real website.
  • Double check invoices are from suppliers you trust and that the bank details are correct.
  • When using PayId or bank transfer make sure the name matches the person you think you’re paying. Some banks will confirm the payee details match when doing a bank transfer.  

How to check a website

  • Type the website and the word scam or review into a search engine and review results carefully
  • Check the websites URL for red flags such as:
    • Multiple dashes or symbols in the domain name
    • Domain that imitates a business, such as Ap9le
    • Domains for Australian businesses that don’t end in .com or .com.au
  • Check the contact page. No contact info is a sign it's likely a scam
  • Check contact information like an address on an online map
  • Use the ICANN Lookup search to see when the website was registered.
    • Recent registration may indicate it is untrustworthy
  • If the website is a .com.au, use the Australian Domain Authority’s website to see which company or trademark registered it.
    • Compare the company that actually registered the website with information that appears on the website

Common products and services scams

Scammers set up stores that look real, or profiles to sell popular or luxury items. Common products scammers try to deceive you into paying for include, toys, BBQs, gym equipment, clothing, shoes, and phones.

They will offer products on their own fake websites, or on a cloned or copy website of a popular store. They also sell through their social media profile or store, or through a profile on a legitimate selling platform like Amazon.

Scammers set up accounts as sellers on popular online marketplaces such as Facebook; Gumtree; or eBay. Often the buyers and sellers may be individuals rather than businesses.

Scammers will also sell expensive products like cars, boats, or caravans. Always inspect the product before making a payment.

Protect yourself by using secure payment methods recommended by the marketplace or platform. Keep communications within the platform. Where it’s available, check the person you are paying (payee) matches the account or PayID you are paying. If not, don’t pay. Many payments are now made instantly and it’s unlikely you will get your money back.

Scammers will contact you out of the blue and ask you to pay bills for services or products you haven’t ordered. If you didn’t order, don’t pay.

Scammers pretend to be from a business you’ve used and send you an invoice with new payee information. The aim is to get you to redirect a legitimate payment to a scammer. You think you are paying for the products or services you ordered but you will be sending money to a scammer. Check emails from businesses carefully. Sometimes they will add one extra letter or number to the email address to deceive you into thinking you are dealing with the real business.

Stop and check any changes to payee information on invoices. Contact the business you normally deal with by phone using a number you have sourced independently.

False billing: John updated supplier details and it ended up costing thousands | Scamwatch

Scammers pose as landlords for rental and holiday properties. They will post ads for rental properties that may not exist or that do exist, but they do not own. Scammers will come up with excuses about why you can’t inspect the property and will ask you to pay a bond or rent in advance. They may also ask you to send identity information like your licence or passport.

Never pay money for a rental property you are not able to inspect. Make sure you are dealing with an estate agent licensed to operate in your State. Do an online search to make sure the property exists and is a rental property.

Scammers set up fake websites to deceive you to pay money for popular breeds, cute puppies, or other pets. They set up fake profiles on social media and online marketplaces to convince you to buy a pet that doesn’t exist.

If you are buying a pet online, always stop and check:

  • View the pet in person by visiting the breeder or seller
  • Request to see the pet in a video call with the breeder
  • Verify if the breeder is legitimate and accredited
  • Compare pricing - if it’s very cheap, it’s likely a scam

Scammers offer health and medical products and services to deceive you to pay money for products that don’t work and won’t cure you.  Some of these products may be dangerous. If you are worried about your health always see a doctor. Never take medical advice from people on social media or online forums.

If you need online delivery for a prescription, ask your healthcare professional if they can recommend an online pharmacy. Never access an online pharmacy site through a link in an unsolicited email - delete the email.

Real pharmacies that trade online will list their full contact details. They will need a doctor’s prescription before they send out any medicine.

If you want to use an overseas-based online pharmacy, you should check with the Therapeutic Goods Administration that the product does not contain any ingredients that are prohibited in Australia. 

Psychic and clairvoyant scammers approach you by post, email, telephone or even face-to-face. They predict a positive upcoming event or claim that you are in some sort of trouble and offer a solution.

Never send money, credit card or other personal details to these scammers.

If you want to use the services of a psychic or clairvoyant, make sure you know the total cost and exactly what you will receive. Ask if there are any conditions and ongoing or hidden costs.