Buying or selling anything brings you into with people that you’ve never met before. Sometimes those new people may be dishonest and trying to scam you – either for money or to obtain an item you’re selling for free. With transactions increasingly occurring online, it can be more difficult than ever to ensure the person or organisation you’re dealing with is legitimate. These tips could help.


Classified scams

Classified sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace can be a great way to sell your unwanted items or pick up a bargain, but they can also provide opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of you. Here’s how you can avoid losing out:

  • As a buyer, it’s important to be wary of anything that looks too good to be true. Classified ad scammers will often advertise an item at a lower price than comparable items to make it seem like a great deal. Warning signs to look for include payment being requested up front, or the seller making an excuse about why they can’t meet in person. Conversations are often quickly steered away from these public websites to private email or instant messaging apps so the fraudsters can avoid being tracked. Once payment is made, it’s common for fraudulent sellers to simply disappear, making it difficult to recall your money with no goods or services ever provided. Always do your research and read reviews to be certain you are dealing with a trusted seller. For expensive items, it’s recommended to inspect the product or ask a friend that lives nearby to inspect the item for you.
  • If you’re selling something, it’s possible that you may be contacted by fraudsters as well as legitimate buyers. A common scam is an ‘upfront fee’ request, where the buyers ask for help paying a fee, from regular postage to large transportation costs, and promise to reimburse you later on, before disappearing.
  • Another common scam is overpayment – the scammer will pay more than the asking price for the item and then contact you to apologise for the overpayment and request that the excess money is refunded. The cheque will then bounce or the credit card payment will be cancelled. Any money paid to the scammer will be lost and if the item has already been sent then that may be lost too. Never send an item until payment has cleared in your bank account.

Fake and risky websites

Online shopping continues to grow and as a result the number of scams targeting online shoppers grows too. It’s now extremely easy to set up a legitimate looking online store and promote it through social media ads, targeting people who are looking for a bargain. There are a variety of online shopping red flags to watch out for:

  • Fake websites selling non-existent goods – social media has become a lucrative channel for scammers to promote their online stores, with everything from fake activewear to cut-price tradesmen's tools offered. These stores will often only be online for a very short time, but they can make significant amounts of money due to the reach that social media advertising gives them. Before making a purchase, it’s important to look for reviews and remember that if something looks too good to be true, there’s every chance that it is.
  • Fake brand name stores – scammers may set up a store which looks almost identical to a legitimate company, using a slight variation on the URL and showing product pictures stolen from the brand’s site. These stores may offer well-known electronics, clothing or jewellery brands at tempting prices. Always check that a website uses a legitimate web address and ensure that you’re using a payment method that offers protection.
  • Unusual payment methods – fake stores often offer a discount for payment by bank transfer, which gives much less room for recourse once the payment has been made. Always check that a website uses a legitimate web address and ensure that you are using a payment method that offers protection - this could be a credit card offering fraud coverage or PayPal, which offers protection for up to $20,000 per item.

  • Unsecure websites – all legitimate websites should protect your data with a valid digital security certificate, ensuring it can’t be intercepted. The best way to check if a website is secure is to look in your browser window and ensure that the site’s address starts with ‘https’ and a padlock icon is shown next to the web address. Avoid entering any sensitive information in any website that doesn’t display the padlock icon and have a URL that begins ‘https’.

Protecting yourself against buying and selling scams

  • If the advertised price of anything you are considering buying looks too good to be true, then it’s very possible that it is.
  • Don’t ever pay someone you haven’t met with a direct money transfer, pre-loaded card or cryptocurrency. It’s extremely difficult to track and recover the money if anything goes wrong.
  • When buying online, it’s a good idea to stick to well-known brands you know you can trust. If you’re buying from a retailer for the first time, look for reviews on third-party websites built up over time as they are difficult for scammers to fake.


If you have been targeted by a scam relating to your Qudos account, visit our webpage Reporting Scams to find out who to contact.

Qudos Mutual Limited trading as Qudos Bank ABN 53 087 650 557 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238 305. The information in this article is of a general nature and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.

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