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Online shopping scams

Learn the warning signs of online shopping scams and read tips for staying safe.

Many of us enjoy the convenience of shopping online. In a few clicks, we can buy practically anything and have it delivered to our door.

We can also use online platforms to sell anything we no longer want or need.

While online shopping has many benefits, online shopping scams are common. According to Scamwatch, Australians lost over $7 million to online shopping scams in 2023, with over $1.5 million of this stolen from Victorians. Not everyone who gets scammed ends up filing a report, so the actual losses are even higher.

Anyone can be targeted in an online shopping scam, so it’s vital to know how to protect yourself.

Keep reading to learn the warning signs of online scams and discover our tips for staying safe when shopping online. 

What is an online shopping scam?

An online shopping scam is when scammers trick online shoppers into giving them money. There are many types of online shopping scams, including:

Warning signs of an online scam  

The best way to protect yourself from online scams is to know the warning signs.  

Fake seller warning signs 

Warning signs you could be dealing with a fake seller include: 

Warning signExamples


The product or service sounds ‘too good to be true’. 

  • The item or service is incredibly cheap.  
  • You’re offered a big discount for a ‘limited time’.  
  • The item’s features or benefits sound unbelievably good. 


The web address or URL is odd. 

  • The website address is very similar but slightly different to a real web address. For instance, instead of ‘’, the website is ‘’ or ‘’. 


You can’t see the seller’s details. 

  • The seller’s details are missing, such as their contact details (like their phone number or email), trading history (like their 'About us' section or page), terms and conditions, ABN or privacy policy. 


The website has typos. 

  • Words on the website are misspelled. 
  • Many sentences use incorrect grammar. 


The website has odd formatting or broken links and images.  

  • The website’s text or images are oddly formatted.  
  • Many broken or pixelated images. 
  • Many broken links. 


You’re told to pay in an unusual or specific way. 

  • The seller demands that you pay by money order, wire transfer, cryptocurrency (for example, Bitcoin) or a pre-loaded card like a gift card. 
  • The seller tells you to pay to several different PayIDs or accounts.  


The person or business you’re buying from doesn’t match the identity of the account holder for payment. 

  • The seller’s name is different from the name of the bank account they’ve given you. 

Fake buyer warning signs 

Warning signs you could be dealing with a fake buyer include:


The buyer wants to buy an expensive item without viewing it. 

  • The buyer insists they don’t need to view an expensive item (like a car) in person before buying it.


The buyer claims to have paid you more than the agreed price.  

  • The buyer says they’ve sent you a ‘payment’ for more than what you were expecting. They then ask you to pay back the difference. It turns out that they never paid you in the first place. 


The buyer insists on paying in an unusual or specific way 

  • The buyer pressures you to accept payment in an unusual or specific way. They then send you a fake ‘payment notification’. They are trying to scam you out of bank account details, the money from your account or your item (without paying for it). 

Tips to protect yourself 

Keep the following tips in mind to stay safe when buying and selling online: 

What to do if you’ve been scammed

Being scammed can be a scary and confusing experience that can happen to anyone.  

You may feel ashamed or guilty, which is a completely normal reaction. The best thing you can do is to stay calm and seek help as soon as possible.   

If you believe you’ve been scammed or something doesn’t feel 100% right, you can follow these 3 steps: 

1. Act immediately 

  • contact your bank: Tell your bank (or the financial institution you used to make the payments, like PayPal or Western Union) that you’ve been scammed and to stop any payments. 
  • stop sending money: Don’t send any more money until you’re 100% sure it's not a scam. 
  • change your passwords: If you think a scammer may have access to your online accounts, change the passwords for them straight away. If you’ve used the same password on multiple accounts, update those accounts too. Make sure to create a strong password that’s difficult to hack. 

The quicker you act to stop a scam, the greater your chances of minimising the damage caused. 

Watch out for follow up scams

Scammers often try to scam people again. If you’ve been scammed, keep a lookout for new scams, such as someone offering to help you get your money back.   

2. Get support  

Being scammed is a horrible experience. 

You may wish to talk to someone about your experience or get some additional guidance. Visit our Get support page for more resources to support you. 

3. Report the scam 

Once you’ve done the above, you may wish to report the scam to support services run by the Australian Government:  

  • ReportCyber: If you’ve lost personal information or money to a scam, you can report it to ReportCyber. You can also call them 24/7 on: 1300 292 371. Your report will be referred directly to the relevant law enforcement agency.

  • Scamwatch: If you report a suspected scam to Scamwatch, they’ll work with other organisations to remove the scam website, ads or contact details.  

Keep in mind that not all reports will be investigated by police. 
By reporting the scam, you’ll help stop cybercriminals from scamming more people. You’ll also make it safer for all Victorians to use online services.  

Learn more about scams