SCAMwatch alerts consumers of classified scams

The watchdog warns consumers to steer clear of scammers who post fake advertisements

Both buyers and sellers of classifieds websites are being targeted by scammers, SCAMwatch has warned.

The consumer watchdog warned buyers to keep an eye out for scammers posing as genuine sellers who post fake advertisements on print and online classifieds.

Scammers often use pictures and details of legitimate advertisements and offer advertised items — ranging from rental properties, pets, used cars, bikes and coats — at much lower prices to lure in prospective buyers, according to SCAMwatch.

Once a potential buyer shows interest in an item, the fraudster will claim they are travelling or have relocated overseas and that a courier will deliver the goods following receipt of payment.

Upon payment, the buyer will not receive the goods and will be unable to contact the seller.

For sellers, scammers pose as genuine buyers and will make generous offers for the item on sale.

If the seller accepts the offer, the scammer will send a cheque for more money than agreed, which they claim to be an overpayment to cover the fees of a courier or extra shipping costs.

The fraudster will then ask for a refund on the excess amount, usually via an online banking or a wire transfer, before the cheque bounces.

Warning signs:

  • Offers that seem too good to be true
  • The potential ‘buyer’ is willing to buy the selling item without viewing it in person, especially for an expensive product
  • The other party wanting to complete the transaction outside of the website’s payment systems, which will strip any protections the site offers to their users.

According to SCAMwatch, consumers and sellers can protect themselves by doing internet searches using the exact wording of the ad, request a number of photos of the item from the seller and avoid any arrangement with a stranger who asks for up-front payment.

Last month, SCAMwatch advised expectant travellers to check the authenticity of flight booking websites before making any reservations for domestic and international travel following reports of fraudsters who have copied the ABN and design of legitimate travel websites.

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