The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning online shoppers to be wary of scammers masquerading as legitimate online retailers, often selling well-known brands at too-good-to-be-true prices.
Already in 2017, the ACCC’s Scamwatch service has received more than 1000 reports of online shopping scams worth more than $150,000 in total.
Younger Australians in the 18 to 24 age bracket made up the biggest group of people who reported losing money to online shopping scammers. Worryingly, Scamwatch’s statistics also show nearly one in every two people reporting the scam lost money.
“Australians love shopping online and scammers take advantage of this by setting up fake websites that look like genuine online stores, including professional-looking design, stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and/or stolen ABNs,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“The only thing these websites are selling is false hope. The scammers running these sites will advertise goods, often well-known and trusted brands, at unbelievably low prices to lure in unsuspecting consumers shopping around for a good deal. If something looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.”
Ms Rickard said that while the often-professional design of fake retailer websites can make them almost exactly look like the real deal, there were some tell-tale scam signs consumers can look for.
“The biggest tip-off is the method of payment: scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, even gift cards from well-known retailers. If you make a payment this way to a scammer, you’re highly unlikely to see that money again,” Ms Rickard said.
We all love a bargain, the bigger the better, but scammers prey on this and will use the ‘fear of missing out’ to cloud your judgement. If in doubt, do a Google search on the website you’re thinking of buying a product from. There are many great product review services that can tip you off to stay clear of a fake retailer,” Ms Rickard said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning people to watch out for dodgy internet pop-up windows claiming there are viruses or other seemingly nasty tech problems affecting their computer.
Known as remote access scams, these pop-up windows are used as a ploy to get unsuspecting victims to call a fake support line – usually a 1800 number. The scammer will then ask for remote access to their victim’s computer to ‘find out what the problem is’.
“Once a scammer has remote access to your computer they can install malicious software, steal your personal data, con you into paying for a ‘service’ of your PC, or sell you unnecessary software to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“These scammers are very convincing and sound like they’re the real deal when talking about tech issues. The pop-ups they create to lure people in look legitimate and are often made to imitate trusted websites for brands like Microsoft and Apple.”
Scamwatch has already received an average of 300 reports a month about this scam in 2017, with more than $41,000 lost in total. Australians aged 45+ are most likely to encounter and lose money to this scam.
“These pop-ups can often seemingly freeze your computer and clicking the close button on your browser often doesn’t work. This tricks people into thinking there really is a problem and calling the fake support line for help. Your first and best line of defence against this scam is to not call that number and close the pop-up if possible,” Ms Rickard said.
Affected users can close the pop up manually through Windows Task Manager (for PC users) or by using the Activity Monitor (for Mac users). If this fails to work, they can also shut down and restart their computer.
“If you do call the number never give a stranger—no matter how legitimate they sound—remote access to your computer,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you think you’ve been caught by this scam, call your bank immediately and let them know what happened to protect your personal bank and/or credit card details. If your credit card was charged for sham software or servicing, you can try to get your money back.”
Ms Rickard also urged consumers to read the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams publication.
“A person’s best protection against scams is awareness and education. The Little Black Book of Scams contains important information about how to spot and avoid scams, to help keep you one step ahead of scammers,” Ms Rickard said.
“The ACCC recently updated this publication to include important new trends we’re seeing from scammers, including in regards to remote access scams.”