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Grim warning to Black Friday shoppers

A warning has been issued over online shopping websites trying to scam shoppers with fake Black Friday deals.

Australian shoppers are expected to spend an eye-watering $6.36 billion in Black Friday sales this weekend, making it the biggest shopping event on the Aussie retail calendar.

But scammers are doing their best to swindle a share, meaning some shoppers mightn’t receive what they bought.

The National Anti-Scam Centre has recorded an increase in the number of reports of fake websites mimicking big brands in the lead-up to the sales event.

So far this year, there have been 2760 reports of fake online stores, to which Australians have lost more than half a million dollars.

The scammers go to extreme lengths to make their sites look like the genuine online stores of popular Australian brands, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Catriona Lowe warned.

That means they may use sophisticated designs and layouts, stolen logos and even a “.com.au” domain name and stolen Australian Business Number.

Many of these websites offer luxury items at very low prices. Sometimes shoppers will receive the item they paid for but it will be fake, or they may receive nothing at all.

“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,” ACCC’s 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.”

A surprising 10 per cent of the entire holiday season spend is forecast to be splashed during the four-day Black Friday to Cyber Monday sales, according to the National Retail Association.

A recent Finder survey of more than 1000 Australians found almost one in three plan to spend this weekend.

Ms Lowe urged consumers who plan to shop online to familiarise themselves with the site addresses of their favourite brands to reduce the likelihood that they’ll end up somewhere fraudulent.

In its overview of fake website scams, ScamWatch shared some telltale signs that an online website is fake.

  1. The web address isn’t secure. When online shopping, always look for the https (not http) and the padlock icon in the address bar to ensure there’s a secure connection between you and the website. Don’t rely on this alone, as some scam websites use https too.
  2. The deal is presented with a sense of urgency. Scammers try to create a sense of urgency to encourage you to do something quickly. Don’t rush — take the time to do your research and consider whether a website is real.
  3. The deal is too good to be true. The price might be enticing, but remember that scams often present offers that really are too good to be true.
  4. The website uses a non-secure payment method. Think about how they’re asking you to pay. Scammers often ask you to pay by non-secure payment methods such as wire, bank or international funds transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These methods are difficult to track and it’s rare to recover money sent this way. Always look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.