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COVID Fuels $7m In Aussie Losses To Online Shopping Scams

More than $7 million has been lost to online shopping scams this year, prompting the ACCC to warn Australians ahead of the holiday season.

Losses to these scams jumped by 42 per cent this year, with Scamwatch receiving over 12,000 reports in 2020. According to ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard, scammers have targeted people shopping online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are now going after holiday and Black Friday shoppers.

“Scammers create fake websites that look like genuine online stores, offering products at very low prices and victims will either receive a fake item or nothing at all.

“They also post fake ads on classified websites, often claiming they are travelling and someone else will deliver the goods, but the item never arrives and the victim can no longer contact the seller,” she said.

Delia Rickard, ACCC.

$4.5 million of these losses came from classified sites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, a 60 per cent increase over 2019. Pets including puppies are the most common things spruiked by scammers, but products such as phones, computers, drones, and tablets accounted for $463,695 in losses. Shoppers aged under 24 reported the highest number of phone and computer-related scams.

Rickard has warned Australians to be on the lookout for warning signs, including fake Australia Post parcel delivery notices through text message or email that ask customers to click a link to enter personal details, or hand over credit card details, or pay fees.

“Watch out for popular products being sold at prices much lower than on other websites and sellers requesting payment through direct bank transfer or cryptocurrency.

“Take the time to consider who you are dealing with and don’t be pressured by special offers. Do your research by checking independent reviews of online stores or the seller’s history on classified websites,” she said.

Customers are advised to contact their banks immediately if they believe they have been scammed.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Gumtree issued the following statement to ChannelNews:

Gumtree is a vibrant community marketplace designed to connect genuine users looking to trade locally, and the safety and security of our community is our main priority. Whilst over 99% of trading experiences are safe on Gumtree, it is important to remain vigilant and understand the warning signs so you can protect yourself online. We strongly recommend users to take precautions when trading online – be cautious when giving out any information. Never give out your identification or banking details unless you are 100% sure that you’re speaking with the real company/person.

Gumtree operates a strict report and take-down process around concerning or suspicious ads that contravene our policy guidelines and we encourage users to report such posts so that we can help to stamp out this activity on the site. Any illegal or suspicious activity that occurs offline should be reported to police.

We also offer advice and support for our users to help them ensure they engage with genuine users and have a positive experience on the site. We encourage people to visit our help page to make sure they are aware of how to spot the signs of a scam.

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