Commissioner's blog: Don’t get wrapped up in a shopping scam this Christmas
Christmas may be a time for giving, but there’s one type of person you wouldn’t want to reward with a free gift this festive season – a scammer.
Unfortunately that has been the outcome for about 200 Western Australians so far in 2021, who reported to WA ScamNet that they had been tricked out of almost $700,000 while shopping online.
The fake websites and social media pages have pretended to sell everything from barbecues to motorhomes, but consumers never received the items, nor saw their money again.
It is very easy to be fooled, with fake websites often looking very professional and sometimes stealing the identity of a well-known retailer or brand. Furthermore, the items for sale may be offered at very low prices in a bid to trigger a shopper’s excitement to bag a bargain.
While the WA ScamNet team has managed to shut-down around 200 fake websites and almost 100 social media pages, the scam sites often quickly re-appear under different names.
This means it will never be possible to close down every fake site and page, so online shoppers need to be confident the site is genuine before entering their personal and financial information during a purchase.
The best warning sign that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Be very suspicious if scammers ask you to pay via electronic funds transfer or using a money order, pre-loaded money card or a crypto currency such as Bitcoin, as it is rare to recover money that is sent this way.
Another important tip is to look at the overall quality of the website, grammatical errors in text, poorly edited images and whether the business provides an actual address for its location.
Try to only pay by credit card or a secure payment method such as PayPal, as there is an opportunity to get your money back if something goes wrong or the item is not supplied.
Better yet, consider giving preference to WA-based online retailers or doing your Christmas shopping at local bricks and mortar stores this year.
For further information or to report a scam, go to the WA ScamNet website or call 1300 30 40 54.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection
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