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I work for a charity in Australia. On a couple of recent occasions we have seen this behaviour by thieves:

  1. People search for cheap Dyson vacuum cleaners.
  2. They find a website which claims to sell (cheap) Dyson vacuum cleaners.
  3. They pay using their credit card.
  4. The website uses a variation of OUR NAME (i.e. not their name, but a variation of our legal name) as their 'Merchant Name'.
  5. The users never get their vacuum cleaner, so they check their statement and see our name there.
  6. Then they google our name and complain that we are scamming them.

We contacted Visa (who told us to contact our bank), our bank fraud team told us to contact ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network) - they said there is nothing they can do, and to contact ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). I can't see what good that is going to do as they are not Australian companies.

Can people just make up a fake 'Merchant Name' with impunity?

Surely there must be a way to trace the merchant name back to the issuing bank and alert them that their customer is using a fraudulent name?

What are the checks on 'Merchant Name' - I would have thought you need supporting evidence that the name relates to your business?

What can we do? Thanks!

(Let me know if this is not the right forum).

  • This isn't an information security question really. – GdD Jun 27 at 12:03
  • @GdD ok (I saw a lot of "merchant name" related questions in this forum). However, can you recommend a better place to ask? Thank you. – Adam George Jun 27 at 13:07
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There are warning from various watch group and authority, e.g. Scamwatch. The complicated part is that many fake online shops are not operating under the same region as the consumer, i.e. the scammer may already close the bank account and run away with the money.

In fact, this is a search engine fault that is not easy to deal with: affected company can only combat it by investing in the brand protection process:

  • Add a scammer warning page related to various scam
  • Do a search on potential organisation name abuse and report it to the search engine portal.
  • Add a link to official scam watch web page
  • Report fraudster domain name to authority and prominent security portals/vendors

Here are some scam/phishing portals that you can use.

(Update) Can the Bank act upon the merchant name that uses a similar name as a legitimate entity? Well, it depends. One big issue of an online purchase is that the user has no way to verify whether the merchant is inside the country. To credit card clearing house like VISA, they are actually dealing with a merchant number instead of merchant name, so there is never an issue for the fraudster to provide a similar merchant name when it operates inside another country. Stopping the fraudster using the legitimate organisation name will take time. It is better to take down the fake web shop to stop subsequent fraud.

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    It appears you may have mis-read my question. This has nothing to do with domain names or search engines. It's related to the 'Merchant Name' which appears on credit card statements. – Adam George Jun 27 at 10:33
  • @AdamGeorge answer updated – mootmoot Jun 27 at 19:02

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