Commissioner's Blog: Shop smart during festive season
It’s only early November but many consumers are already searching for great deals as they plan for their Christmas and New Year celebrations yet, as always, it is a case of buyer beware especially when it comes to shopping online.
This year our WA ScamNet team has received reports about fake websites selling everything from toys to barbecues and outboard motors. Buyers pay for the items which are then never delivered.
Another scam to watch out for during this busy shopping period involves messages claiming that you have a package waiting to be delivered.
You might receive an email, text or a phone call about an undelivered package where the scammer pretends to be from a parcel delivery service like Australia Post or FedEx.
In the case of the emails, they attempt to make it look legitimate by including your name and address and professional looking company information.
These scams can either be a phishing attempt to get your personal information or a way to install malware or ransomware on your device. So do not click on any links or provide personal information without verifying that the message is legitimate first.
When it comes to fake websites, while the products supposedly on offer may vary the losses reported to us were all from sites that claimed to offer items at prices that were simply too good to be true. This kind of pricing should immediately raise a red flag with shoppers.
It is an ongoing problem and our WA ScamNet team works quickly to get these dodgy websites and social media pages shutdown as soon as they verify reports of losses. But new versions quickly pop up.
So the best defence is awareness about how to spot and avoid these fake websites. The scams tend to operate in a similar manner where the advertised goods are ordered, paid for and then not delivered.
Often the biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, direct bank deposit or wire transfer. But if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.
Our tips for consumers include:
- Be wary of ‘great deals’ served to you via an internet search, social media advertisements or pop-ups.
- Be suspicious of sites you haven’t heard of before and consider the risks if there is no physical address, phone contact details or ABN.
- Watch out for sites asking for insecure payment methods (direct bank transfer or wire transfer).
- Protect yourself by using known reputable sites and paying by a secure system (padlocked) with a credit card or PayPal, so you have an opportunity to seek a chargeback if you don’t get what you paid for.
- Use the internet to search for reviews before buying from a website, as this will often reveal consumer blog threads exposing scam sites or a Consumer Protection warning.
- Be aware that scammers create copycat sites of real online businesses. Pixelated photos and links that do not work can be a sign of this.
- If you receive a message about an undeliverable package, don’t open any attachments or download files. If you are suspicious, call the company directly to verify that the message is genuine after independently sourcing their contact details.