Hottest complaint of 2012: solar products More than $1.7 million lost to scams

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Consumer Protection has named its top five complaints of 2012 – solar products were the burning issue of the year, while air transport, discount vouchers, fencing and pre-assembled furniture were numbers two to five on the list.

WA ScamNet recorded $1.7 million in losses to scams over the 12 month period with romance scams accounting for about $870,000 of the total.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it had been a year of action to address the trends now highlighted in the annual complaints analysis.

“As we began 2012 Consumer Protection had just secured an enforceable undertaking from a major solar PV system provider to deal with extended installation delays which were concerning a high number of consumers,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Other projects over the year included liaising with a big fencing contractor to get them to change their unfair contract terms; visiting furniture suppliers; and ongoing work with consumer protection agencies in the other states and territories to tackle problems consumers are facing with coupons bought from group-buying websites.

“Our WA ScamNet website (which names and shames scams to raise awareness and offers tips to prevent people falling victim) has been hugely successful in 2012. There are between 6,000 and 13,000 unique visitors to the site every month and thousands of consumers are signed up to our free email alerts.

“Sadly the number of scam victims reporting monetary loss continues to rise and the amounts can be shockingly high – we heard from one person who lost $300,000 in a romance scam this year.

“Our strategies to combat scams in 2013 include closer collaboration with WA Police Major Fraud Squad who are using new and innovative ways to detect scams and their victims.”

Statistics summary

Consumer Protection handled 10,808 complaints in 2012. The top five issues were:

  • Solar products (installation delays and warranties) – 234 complaints
  • Air Transport (refunds and non-performance) – 152
  • Discount vouchers (supply difficulties and refunds) – 137
  • Fencing (workmanship and delays) – 124
  • Pre-assembled furniture (unsatisfactory goods and remedies) – 84

WA ScamNet recorded $1.7 million in losses. The top five reported scams were:

  • Microsoft scam (remote tech support) – average victim loss of $500
  • Romance scams – average victim loss of $37,000
  • Puppy scams (non-existent pets for sale) – average victim loss of $800
  • ATO scams (bogus tax office refunds) – average victim loss of $450
  • Rental scams (fake online classifieds listings) – average victim loss of $1,500

For details of how these scams work simply log on to www.scamnet.wa.gov.au and use the search box.
 
END OF RELEASE

Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce.

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Media Contact:
Alina Cavanagh
9282 0679 or 0423-846397
alina.cavanagh@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
31 Dec 2012

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