Scamwatch issues warning over Google search results

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

ACCC’s Scamwatch has released a warning over a scam targeting unsuspecting online shoppers. They’re urging Aussie consumers to be wary of scammers impersonating well-known brands. These brands are appearing in Google’s search results, sometimes lurking in the sponsored links at the top of the search results page if they’ve gone to the trouble to pay for an ad.

The scam site will offer products on their own fake websites, or clone a site of a popular store. They might also take advantage of selling through their social media profile, or through a legitimate platform like Amazon. 

“Watch out for scam websites that mimic well-known brands. Remember, sponsored websites can be fake, so stop and check the website address to make sure you're visiting the real online store. Super cheap prices can also be a dead giveaway,” Scamwatch warns in a Twitter post alongside a screenshot of one of the offending scam search results.

An unfortunately common practice nowadays is brands using stolen images to advertise fake products on their site. They’ll also offer these products at prices that seem too good to be true. So when you order these products, you either won’t receive anything or you’ll receive a product that bears little resemblance to what you actually thought you were buying.

According to Scamwatch, Aussies have lost over $1 million in fake shopping scams this year alone. Earlier this year, trusted retailers like Gorman, Peter Alexander, and Sportsgirl also told customers to watch out for websites that were impersonating their brands.

Image: @Scamwatch_gov/Twitter.

Warning signs to look out for

To entice you, the brand might use stolen logos, or a stolen Australian Business Number (ABN) to trick you into thinking they are legitimate. They might even have contrasting positive and negative reviews, like a real business.

Look out for a lack of terms and conditions, privacy policy, or ABN on their website, as this can be a sign of a fraudulent website. 

When it's time to check out, they might request you pay to different accounts. They might also request you choose the ‘friends and family’ option on PayPal to absolve them of consequences if they are caught scamming people.

Another warning sign is a price that feels too good to be true. If the product looks like it's made of high-quality material but the price is insanely low, it might be a scam.

Protecting yourself

Search for the privacy policy, terms and conditions, dispute resolution information, and secure payment services like PayPal. Look for the ABN and look it up on the ABN Lookup website.

Search for the official site – the first result that comes up could be a scam so always double-check the spelling and the URL for red flags. Multiple dots or dashes in the domain name, or one that imitates a business name like ‘sp0rtsgirl’ can indicate fraudulent behaviour.

Always check the reputation of the brand you’re giving your money. Use the ICANN Lookup search to see when the website was registered. Recent registration may also mean the website is a scam.  

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

Recent Articles