Web of lies – warning for online shoppers

With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Western Australians shopping online often get caught up in a web of lies by landing on fraudulent retail sites. The sites feature stolen ABNs and photos, and when you pay for a product, you’ll get nothing in return.

Last year (2019) Australians reported losses of over $4 million to online shopping scams, which was $720,000 more than the previous 12 months. Recent reports of money losses to WA ScamNet have involved sites selling barbecues, outboard motors and branded shoes. In reality no products exist.

Often fake sites pop up while you are searching in Facebook marketplace, Gumtree or looking on reputable retailer websites. The idea is to catch your eye with the promise of a bargain, quickly tempt you away from a known seller and catch you out in a bogus transaction.

Before impulse-buying online, stop and think. Search for website reviews and look-up the ABN at www.abr.business.gov.au.

Remember it’s not safe to direct bank transfer – you won’t be able to find out where the funds have gone and the amounts we’re talking about generally aren’t high enough to meet the threshold for a police investigation, so you’ve got to protect yourself. Use of credit card or PayPal means you have a chance to get your money back if you don’t receive what you paid for.

What are the hallmarks of a bogus retail website?

  • Big discounts or low prices
  • No contact phone number of physical address
  • Request for payment by direct bank transfer or cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin

From time to time websites that take payment and don’t deliver are real businesses and we can look at complaints to issue a public warning if it’s justified. An example is our recent naming of Byron Bay-based The Rattan Collective, which is popular on Instagram and sells rattan furniture.

/Public Release. View in full here.