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Fake Tech Sellers Exposed

By Oonagh Reidy | Tuesday | 11/06/2013

Beware of fake websites flogging electronics, Minister warns

Scammers are setting up fake online sites mimicking genuine retailers, designed to rip off consumers.

A number of Victorian consumers have fallen victim to the bogus sites, Victoria's minister Consumer Affairs  said today. 

Consumers complained to Consumer Affairs Victoria after buying electronics from what they believed was a genuine online seller. But after ordering and paying for the products, they never arrived.

Scammers use 'real' sellers contact details on the fake websites. However, the real company has no record of the order made. 

Consumer Affairs Victoria recently shut down a fake site directdiscountwarehouse.com.au, but there are concerns similar scams could still be operating.

"This is a sophisticated scam, where the scammers use the details of a legitimate business including its name, address, contact details and ABN to convince shoppers they're dealing with a legitimate business," Minister for Consumer Affairs Heidi Victoria said. 

"This warning is as much for businesses as consumers, to be wary when buying from online shopping sites and to report it immediately if phantom orders are reported to your business."

A tell-tale sign that you are dealing with fake websites is they 'll often request a direct money transfer, or have no refund policy or dispute resolution information on their website.

Last year, Consumer Affairs Victoria recorded around 220 cases of shopping and trading scams, including cases where a scammer advertises fake goods to trick consumers into sending money or use fake cheques to buy from genuine sellers. 

There are some helpful tips to identify fake websites:

. Be suspicious if the only payment method offered is direct money transfers. If you pay this way, it is almost impossible to get your money back.

. Check if the business is registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

. Research the business - read the 'about us' or 'contact us' information on the website. See if the contact details and descriptions match details you find through an independent online search or through organisations such as ASIC.

. Check that website links work. While it is common for an occasional link to fail, be suspicious if a high proportion of links on the website do not work. 

. Click on any social media links to see if these accounts exist and, if so, that they have recent posts. Be wary if the accounts were recently established.

. Check if the business has a refund policy and find out how they resolve disputes. . Search the website name with the word 'scam' to see if anyone has posted reviews or alerts about the business or website.

. Be wary of websites that sell popular high-end products such as smart phones, tablets and luxury goods at heavily discounted prices. 

. Check that the website has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which helps to ensure that any data you submit through the website is encrypted and secure. Look for 'https' in the prefix of the webpage address and click on the 'lock icon' in the status bar of your browser to see details of the site's security. 

. Check if there are a lot of spelling or grammatical mistakes or if the images presented are blurry. Professional websites generally provide accurate content with high-quality images.

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