Shopping for a Black Friday Bargain? Keep an Eye Out for QR Code and Fake Website Scams

Shopping for a Black Friday Bargain? Keep an Eye Out for QR Code and Fake Website Scams

Telstra and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are raising the alarm in the lead-up to the holiday season, urging Australians to stay vigilant amid increased scam activity as Black Friday sales roll in.

Telstra claims that, during the November-December period of 2022, there was a 66 per cent increase in SMS scam activity compared to the previous three months, and Australia’s biggest telco is expecting the end of this year to be very much the same.

Meanwhile, the ACCC has warned that there has already been a concerning increase in the number of fake websites reported that look like genuine online retailers.

“Scammers are opportunistic criminals who will try to take advantage of people doing their Christmas shopping online during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday period,” ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said.

“A recent, disturbing development is that scammers are paying for their fake websites to appear at the top of your internet search. This means you can’t necessarily trust the first listing you see.”

So far in 2023, an estimated $397 million has been lost to scams in Australia, according to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, with 234,672 reports made to the organisation. 70 per cent of scams reported to Scamwatch were impersonation scams, with the next most common scam being road toll scams, and then ‘Hi Mum’ family scams.

Back to Telstra, the company has warned of a spike in scams reliant on QR codes that link directly to fake websites. In operation, this would require a victim to scan a QR code with their phone camera, which would link them to a dodgy website.

“Be suspicious of QR codes, especially if it is from an unexpected source. Just like clicking links, be sure the QR code you’re looking at has come from the source it says it is. If unsure, contact the organisation through an official channel before scanning and check that the code links to a legitimate site before submitting any information. Also beware of regular hyperlinks: always hover your mouse over links before clicking to check the domain,” Telstra cybersecurity expert Darren Pauli said.

As such, please check any websites you’re linked to for dodgy URLs at the top or bottom of the page (depending on your browser). For example, JB Hi-Fi’s URL is If a scammer were attempting to impersonate JB Hi-Fi, they might replace the ‘B’ with a ‘D’, to make it look the same, or replace an ‘I’ with an ‘L’, or the ‘’ could be different, such as ‘.cool’, ‘.net’, ‘.blog’, or other ‘.com’ alternatives.

Additionally, if you receive a phone call or text message from a phone number that doesn’t appear to be legitimate (you can check by Googling the phone number, and seeing if it’s linked to the company that it claims to be), then it likely isn’t.

If you believe that a message you have been sent is a scam, you should report it to Scamwatch. If you’ve been sent an email that appears to be a scam, you can report it through your email service provider (for example, by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of an email in Gmail, and by clicking ‘Report Scam’), and you can report SMS and MMS scams to Telstra by forwarding the message to 7226.

Please be on the lookout for scams this Black Friday and Christmas period, and if an extremely good deal comes out of the blue, through a text, phone call, or email, then it’s likely too good to be true.

Image: iStock

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.