Commissioner's Blog: Buyer beware fake websites
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe
A super bargain promoted via an online pop-up or social media advertisement is just like an enticing shop window display with ‘sale’ signs. It can be hard to pass up the chance of big discounts or low prices but digital impulse buying may mean you get nothing in return for your money.
Consumer Protection’s WA ScamNet team is kept busy trying to shut down fake or copycat websites. We find out about these bogus sites when people have paid for goods, not received them and are then unable to get a response to their emails.
Recently there have been fake sportswear websites, including one called sksvipstocks dot com posing as shoe brand Skechers. There have also been a number of fake BBQ sites, such as bbqaddiction.com.au, which we had shut down.
When you’re shopping online, there may be no physical business premises and in a worst case scenario the products might not exist or the website might be impersonating a business. Consider the risks of dealing with a seller without an address or working phone number. If the only way to communicate is email, how will that affect your ability to get a remedy if you don’t get what you paid for?
Alarm bells should ring if sites ask you to pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer. Pay in a secure way, such as credit card or Paypal, so you can seek a chargeback or dispute the transaction if you need to.
So how do you spot a fake website? The reality is they can look really professional and may have copied official logos, high quality images and even stolen an ABN from a real business. One sign of a fake site can be a recent copyright date but scammers may also put an older copyright date to fool you.
Before you press buy, look up the business name online to find out its real web address and check if there is a letter ‘s’ for secure in the URL. What is the known email address? If you’re on Facebook look for a tick verification badge to show a page truly belongs to a business or organisation.
If you’ve never heard of a site before and know nothing about its reputation, search for reviews as this can reveal warnings from other customers. Also have a look at our scam prevention tips on www.scamnet.wa.gov.au.
Suspect you’ve lost money in a fake website scam? Call WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.