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Identifying buying or selling scams


What to look out for if you’re buying or selling online.

Online purchasing scams can target both sellers and buyers, so it’s important to be aware of the signs to identify and avoid the following common scams.

Classified or marketplace scams

These types of scams often occur online where the scammer tricks you into believing they have a legitimate item for sale or are interested in purchasing something you have listed.

If you’re selling… be aware of scammers who come up with excuses and claim that they’re travelling, have moved or that someone else will collect the goods on their behalf.

They may also make up stories about upfront costs they need your help with and promise to return the funds. They could also go the other way and make an over payment before asking you to return the funds to a different account. Never make payments upfront to unknown buyers or without viewing/exchanging the item first.

If you’re buying… be aware of listings that are advertised at a much lower rate than other similar products. Often these ads are scams designed to entice victims and can be anything from pets, cars, bikes or rental properties.

They’ll often come up with excuses for why you can’t see the item or purchase it in person and will promise to deliver or ship the item after payment is received. If in doubt, don’t, and avoid making payments upfront for unfamiliar invoices or links to what appear to be ‘secure payment’ methods.

PayID scams

These types of scams will urge or request that you use the PayID platform. Often, the buyer won’t question the price or ask to see the item and state that a friend or relative will pick up the item on their behalf.

Once you send them your email or mobile number, they will then try trick you into making additional payments.

This can happen in a number of different ways:

  • The ‘buyer’ will claim they’ve made the payment but it can’t be processed because you don’t have the right type of account. They’ll then say they paid the extra amount required to upgrade the account and ask you to reimburse them the funds.
  • Scammers will often create text messages or emails appearing to be from PayID that confirm a payment or advise of any problems. These can be extremely convincing and even appear in an existing SMS thread from your bank but are designed to deceive you into making a payment to the offender.

PayID is a legitimate electronic payment method that aims to simplify the transfer of money and minimise issues of entering BSB and account numbers incorrectly.

Users can set up PayID with their phone number, email or ABN which is linked to an account then verified by the bank.

Remember the following to avoid a PayID scam:

  • PayID is administered through individual banks and will never communicate directly with customers via text, emails or phone calls
  • PayID is a free service. There are no associated costs to use it and you don’t need to upgrade your ‘account type’.
  • Genuine buyers will usually collect an item in person or be happy to pay with cash. Be wary of people who only want to use PayID and claim they can’t collect the item for whatever reason.
  • You can always block a user or leave the message thread if you don’t think it’s genuine.

False billing scams

These types of scams ask you to pay fake invoices for products or services you didn’t order. They can be highly convincing and many email attacks will include ransomware attachments designed to infect your computer.

If you don’t recognise the company, don’t open any attachments and contact your usual provider directly via the details from a reliable source like a previous invoice.

Scammers are sophisticated and targeted with the tactics they use. Here are some common red flags to look out for:

  • Scammers are pushy and try to contact you multiple times
  • The offer is too good to be true and the product is offered at a very low price, or they offer you more than the advertised price of an item
  • You get an invoice for good or services you didn’t order, or a call from someone claiming to be your regular supplier offering the same goods you have ordered before.

Protect yourself

Here are some top tips to stay one step ahead of scammers:

  1. Be wary of anything unsolicited. A weird looking email, a phone number you don’t recognise, a text message with a link or even an approach via your social media channels could all be scammers attempting to con you.
  2. Be super aware. Mistakes in emails, domain URLs that don’t match the company name, weird grammar or templates that look a bit dodgy are all bad signs.
  3. Never click on a link or attachment. If you suspect an email invoice could be a scam and there’s a link for you to click on, don’t do it! Go and research the company and the deal independently online first to be sure you’re buying from the actual source.
  4. Avoid unusual payment arrangements. Don’t make payments to a stranger where they request payment via money order, international funds transfers, pre-loaded card or electronic currencies such as bitcoin.
  5. Always check delivery. Ensure that goods or services were both ordered and received before paying an invoice.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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