A bargain or a Scam? Learn more on buying and selling scams

What’s an online shopping scam?

More than one-third of Australian households shop online. In 2020, coronavirus lockdowns forced even more numbers to purchase their goods digitally. Taking advantage of this trend, scammers are setting up fake websites and deceiving people into buying from them. Once the order is placed and payment made, shoppers might receive a fake, inferior product compared to what was promised, or nothing at all. Classified scams are a subset of this type of scam, where scammers pose as genuine sellers, posting fake ads on either a classifieds website, newspaper, or via email or social media.

Woman looking at phone with earphones on

How to avoid being scammed

  • What to look for

    • Be wary of any offer that seems too good to be true, such as luxury items or popular brands being offered at unusually low prices
    • Don’t rush or be pressured by ‘limited offers’ or end-of-sale ‘countdowns’ – scammers always try to create a sense of urgency
    • Online stores or classifieds that request you use non-secure payment methods. These include wire or bank transfers, money orders, preloaded gift cards and electronic currencies like Bitcoin. It’s rare you’ll be able to recover money sent this way.


  • How to protect yourself

    • Navigate directly to an online store using your web browser, rather than by clicking an email or social media link
    • Google the merchant, its online store and its products to check their reviews
    • Read the comments on a store’s social media ads to see what other people have to say about them
    • Regularly check your statements. If you’ve been shopping online, keep an eye on your transaction history and report anything suspicious as soon as possible. A small, unauthorised charge can be the first sign of credit card theft – scammers often do it to check if your account is active.
    • If you’re not familiar with the site, be cautious of unbelievably low prices, missing privacy policies, terms and conditions or refund information, or sites that limit your payment options. It should easy enough to contact customer service if you need help – even better if they have a phone number or physical address. A quick web search can surface reviews and other buyer’s experiences.
    • Think twice before connecting to free public Wi-Fi networks. Cybercriminals like to lurk on public networks and intercept your activities, or even set up rogue hotspots for you to connect to, so never shop or bank online using public Wi-Fi.
    • Before you browse or shop online, ensure your computer’s anti-virus is up-to-date.
    • If you need to create accounts with online stores, make sure you use strong and unique passwords – don’t reuse your internet banking, email or social media passwords
    • Generally, debit cards don’t offer the same level of buyer protection as other payment methods, so it’s recommended to pay with a credit card or payment system (e.g. PayPal).
    • If shopping for second hand items from social media or another online marketplace,
    • ask as many questions as possible upfront, look at the seller’s profile and past feedback; Never share your bank account details or passwords, or transfer a deposit without seeing what you’re buying first.

Case study

Jessie, a thirty-something admin worker, found an ad on social media for a weight-loss supplement endorsed by an Australian celebrity. The product was advertised for $29.99 and once she clicked the link, the website prompted her to enter her card details before confirming the final price. She was wary of this but decided to proceed. Once the transaction was processed, Jessie received an SMS from CBA asking if she’d made a payment of $166.43 to a company whose name she didn’t recognise. She’d been involved in a scam that advertised a product for one price and yet charged her a much higher one.

woman at desk looking to left

Been scammed? What next?

  • Get in touch

    If you (or someone you know) is a CommBank customer and has been targeted or lost money as a result of being scammed, call us immediately 24/7 on 13 2221.

    Report it

    Report the scam via the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Reports may be referred to the police for possible investigation.

    Take control and stay protected

    Change your passwords and PINs straight away if you suspect your security has been compromised. Change these regularly as a preventative measure.

    Seek support

    Contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or via www.idcare.org. IDCARE is a free, Government-funded service that provides support to victims of identity crime.

    Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.

Important information

  • As the advice on this website has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on the advice, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances. View our Financial Services Guide. Terms and Conditions for these products and services are available online or from any branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The Terms and Conditions should be considered before making any decision about these products.