Getting scammed this time of year is possibly one of the worst ways to start the December Christmas spending period.
But that’s exactly what is happening to tends of thousands of Australians, who have already lost about $12.9 million to online shopping including classifieds scams so far this year, according to Scamwatch, which is part of The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Scamwatch has received over 26,000 reports of online shopping scams, more than the total reported through all of 2020.
This is consistent with global trends from 2020 as more people shop online during the pandemic.
“This is a very busy time of year, and scammers often try to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers rushing to organise gifts,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
Table 1: Top 10 products reported in online shopping scams in 2021 (until 31 Oct), by highest losses
|7||Phones (mobile phones)||406||$216,240|
Losses to online shopping scams are spread across most age groups, but people aged 25-34 lost the most money, at $2.4 million.
The number of reports involving a financial loss has decreased this year, indicating that more people are able to recognise and avoid online shopping scams, however people are actually losing more money, with an average loss of more than $1,450, compared to $1,190 last year.
So how can you avoid scammers?
According to Scamwatch, scammers are increasingly creating fake online stores selling items at heavily discounted prices, however the items are either fake, or are never actually delivered to buyers.
Scammers have also created fake stores on social media platforms or post fake ads on legitimate classifieds websites. They may request payment or offer discounts for payments made through direct bank transfers or cryptocurrency.
Before you buy, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of scams and consider the following official advice before you transact:
1. If it looks too good to be true, the it probably is. Be suspicious of too good to be true offers and any sellers that ask you to pay by bank transfer, gift cards or cryptocurrency
2. Not all payment gateways are legit. While some scammers try to make online stores look legitimate by requesting payment via PayPal or credit card, always double check that the real PayPal platform is being used. Always try to use a secure payment service such as PayPal or credit card transaction.
3. Do you research and make sure you know who you are buying from. Search online for the product or company name, plus “complaint” or “scam” to see what other people are saying. If you are buying from a social networking site, check the seller’s history and read reviews from other people who have dealt with them.
4. Avoid up-front payments. When you’re paying, avoid arrangements that ask for up-front payment via bank transfer, or payment through digital currency, like Bitcoin.
5. Beware the unofficial email delivery trap. If you’re waiting for your parcel, remember that scammers also take advantage of people expecting deliveries. Australia Post and other parcel delivery companies will never email, call or text you asking for personal or financial information or a payment. Many delivery companies have apps where you can track your parcels rather than clicking on links in messages or emails.
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