The Black Friday to Cyber Monday period (24-27 November 2023) is a huge time for online shopping with many consumers looking to grab a bargain in the lead up to Christmas. Unfortunately, this also means scammers will be out in full force looking to capitlise on vulnerable shoppers.
The National Anti-Scam Centre also known as Scamwatch, has reported an alarming increase in the number of reports of fake websites that look like genuine online retail stores belonging to many big-name brands.
“We have seen an alarming increase in reports of fake online shopping website scams, which use the latest technology to look like genuine, well-known Australian fashion and footwear labels.” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
Research by the Australian Retailers Association, in partnership with Roy Morgan, reveals shoppers are tipped to spend $6.36 billion across the four-days, up 3.0% from last year. The average shopper is expected to spend $440 in this year's sales.
2023 has so far seen 2760 reports of fake online stores, resulting in more than $500,000 in losses. – According to Scamwatch.
“Scammers are opportunistic criminals who will try to take advantage of people doing their Christmas shopping online during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday period,” Ms Lowe said.
“A recent disturbing development is that scammers are paying for their fake websites to appear at the top of your internet search. This means you can’t necessarily trust the first listing you see.”
Consumers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the site addresses of their favourite brands and navigate there directly or scroll down the search results to ensure they are accessing the correct site.
Scamwatch has shared some red flags to look out for.
How fake retail website scams work
- Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retail websites that purport genuine online retail stores. They may copy the branding and formatting of reputable companies, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and a stolen Australian Business Number (ABN).
- Many of these fake websites offer luxury items such as popular brands of clothing, jewellery and electronics at very low prices. Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but they will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.
- Scammers also set up fake online stores on social media platforms. They open the store for a short period. After making a few sales of fake items, the stores will disappear.
They also use social media to advertise their fake website, so do not trust a site just because you have seen it advertised or shared on social media. The best way to detect a fake seller or social media online shopping scam is to search for independent reviews before purchasing.
- A complicated URL for a website that claims to be a well-established brand.
- The ‘About Us’ or ‘Contact Us’ sections of a website can be a good indicator. A scam website may contain missing, irrelevant information or be non-existent altogether.
- Links to social media or other pages that don't work when you click on them.
How to protect yourself
- Beware of websites or sellers advertising at very low prices, often considerably lower than similar to identical items on other websites. Take a moment to consider whether a sale is too good to be true, it more of than not will be!
- You may be able to report sponsored ads to Google in ‘My Ad Centre’. This can be accessed by clicking on the three stacked dots to the right of the sponsored ad.
- Always access websites via an independent search rather than through links in emails, SMS or social media. Use official apps from app stores where possible.
- Avoid paying by direct bank deposit, money transfers or digital currencies such as Bitcoin as you won’t be able to retrieve your money. You should pay by PayPal or credit card. You may want to keep a second credit card with a low credit limit just for online shopping.
- Use secure devices, avoid public wifi and ensure that you set up multi factor authentication.
- Create strong, unique passwords
- Learn how to shop online securely
What to do if you have encountered a scam
If you believe you may have been a victim or lost money to a scam, it’s important to notify your financial institution as soon as possible.
If you think your personal details are at risk, contact IDCare.
Black Friday sales tipped to buck Christmas slowdown trend - Roy Morgan Research
What to know for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2023 | CHOICE
Shopping for online bargains this Black Friday weekend? Make sure it's the real deal | Scamwatch