Tech and Science

‘Dead giveaway’: Scary warning about Google search results


Aussies have been issued a troubling warning about search results, as Australia’s scam watchdog reveals hackers could be using Google to hide in plain sight.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch urged Aussies to watch out for scammers impersonating well-known websites and brands that appear in Google search results.

In fact, if the scammer has taken the extra step of paying for a Google ad, their scam may even be lurking in the sponsored links that appear at the top of the search results page, the watchdog warned.

“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 said.

Aussies have already lost $3.7 million to online shopping scams this year, on top of more than $9.2 million lost in 2022.

“Scammers set up stores that look real, or profiles to sell popular or luxury items. Common products scammers try to deceive you into paying for include toys, BBQs, gym equipment, clothing, shoes, and phones,” Scamwatch warned.

“They will offer products on their own fake websites, or on a cloned or copy website of a popular store. They also sell through their social media profile or store, or through a profile on a legitimate selling platform like Amazon.”

How to check if a website is fake

Scamwatch included a few helpful tips to determine whether a website is real or a scam. It urged Aussies to pay close attention to website URLs and look for red flags.

URL red flags can include:

  • Multiple dashes or symbols in the domain name
  • Domain names that imitate a business, such as “Ap9le”
  • Domains for Australian businesses that don’t end in “.com” or “”

Scamwatch also urged anyone concerned about the legitimacy of a website to check the contact page. No contact information is a sign the website is a scam, the watchdog said.

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