Be on the lookout for online scams

20th March 2017 12:54 PM
WARNING: Beware of phone calls saying you have a computer problem. ACCC is warning about scams masquerading as online retail Rob Wright /Coffs Coast Advocate

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."