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Looking for a bargain when buying electronic devices? Want to beat the unreasonably high Australian mark-up on such goods?

Buying from abroad is the way to go - and one of the sites that sells these gadgets and seems a godsend for buyers in places like Australia is Supper Depot, an online outlet that has a physical address located in Malaysia. At least that is what claims to be.

A Samsung Galaxy SIII, which sells for $529 at the cheapest in Australia, is on sale for $US300 plus $US25 postage, at Supper Depot. But there are signs that this is all too good to be true. And I speak from personal experience.

Last month I ordered an SIII from the store, only to be told a few days later that my credit card payment had been refused. The man who wrote to me, one Frank Anthony, said it could be due to a problem with the address or a lack of funds in my account, and asked me to instead use Money Gram, a service similar to Western Union.

I compared the format of my address to the way it had been formatted within my account on the Supper Depot website and noticed that one difference existed; the postcode is normally written after the state for an Australian address. Supper Depot had the postcode after the suburb.

Given this, I did not think much but I wrote back to Anthony and asked him to send the details of Supper Depot's Money Gram account so that I could remit the $US325 for the phone.

At the Money Gram website, I found a warning about sending money using its services in certain situations; one situation in which it was advised not to send money was "to buy a product/ service or a pet via the internet or anywhere else in response to any offer that sounds very cheap in comparison to their expected price or looks 'too good to be true'."

This made me suspicious and a bit of searching on the web threw up one case of a person who claimed to have been cheated by Supper Depot, to the tune of $US2000.

To be on the safe side, I called up my credit card provider and asked them to stop payment on my order in case it was put through; they responded that they could not do so, but could cancel my card and send me a new one.

During the conversation I had with them, I found out that no amount of $US325 had been submitted for payment over the week; this meant that Anthony had been telling porkies.

Supper Depot had a phone number listed at the bottom of Anthony's email so I called it. There was no response, apart from the standard "this number cannot be reached at this time. Please try later." I tried numerous times, all with the same result.

I wrote to Anthony asking why he did not accept payment through PayPal. His reply was: "Dues (sic) to the period of November and December, we don’t accept payment through Paypal. We suggest to make your payment using Money Gram or you can transfer funds from your bank account online to our bank account."

I also asked Anthony about the complaint about his company on the web; he ignored this part of my email when he replied.

By this point, I had had a close look at the website and lots of things seemed funny. When I initially went to the site, I was directed from a search that took me directly to the page for the SIII and this page looked kosher.

For one, the minimum order quantity listed was five units, yet my order, for a single unit, had been accepted. (The MOQ has now been changed to 3.)

Second, a lot of the text on the home page was boilerplate text present in the default page of OpenCart, an open source application for building such e-commerce sites.

Third, while there are little graphics for the major credit card vendors on the site, none of these link through to the actual credit card agencies.

I lodged an inquiry with MasterCard about the address issue; due to the holiday season, it took a while for them to get back to me.

On Tuesday, I had this reply from an official spokesman: "The address verification issues as you've described shouldn't occur with legitimate online merchants. We do not recommend cardholders use alternative payments instead such as international money transfers, as they lose the security and consumer protections MasterCard offers on its cards."

I've tried to contact Supper Depot more than a dozen times but all I get is the same message on the phone. I sent them an email with some queries but there has been no reply.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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