Christmas SCAM warning: Fraudsters are using devious tricks to take your cash

Shoppers are busy splashing the cash as the festive season gets well underway, but consumers are being warned to watch out for scammers taking advantage of the season of spending.


Online shopping scams

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. The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, but if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.


Warning signs

A product is advertised at an unbelievably low price or advertised to have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true.

The other party insists on immediate payment, or payment by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. They may insist that you pay up-front for vouchers before you can access a cheap deal or a give-away.

An online retailer does not provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details. The seller may be based overseas, or the seller does not allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.


Protect yourself

Check if the website or social media page has a refund or returns policy.

When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal. Think twice before using virtual currencies such as bitcoin—they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods so you can’t get your money back once you send it.

Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust.