Online shoppers warned not to give scammers a Christmas gift

This announcement is for: 
Consumer
  • WA online shoppers fall victim to fake websites and social media pages
  • 200 WA victims lose almost $700,000 to online shopping scams in 2021
  • Popular consumer items offered at very low prices as bait to trap consumers

Fake websites and social media pages are tricking online shoppers into buying products that they will never receive and Consumer Protection is warning Western Australians not to reward scammers with a Christmas gift.

So far this year, WA ScamNet has closed down about 200 fake websites and almost 100 social media pages that were selling a range of goods including motorhomes, exercise equipment, popular electronic devices including the latest mobile phones or game consoles, puppies/pets and farm machinery. About 200 WA shoppers have reported losing a total of almost $700,000 to online shopping scams in 2021.

With summer and Christmas just around the corner, seven bogus websites selling BBQ’s that were attempting to cash in on the increased seasonal demand were shut down, but not before many consumers were burnt.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said, despite the shutdowns, the websites will often quickly re-appear under a different name.

“It will never be possible to close down all these fake websites and social media pages, so it’s really important that online shoppers are extremely cautious before entering their personal and financial information during a purchase, unless they are confident the site is genuine,” Mr Newcombe said.

“The websites look very professional and may even steal the identity of a well-known retailer or brand, so it’s easy to be fooled. The items for sale may be offered at very low prices which triggers a shopper’s excitement to bag a bargain.

“One important tip is to look at the overall quality of the website, grammatical errors in text, poorly edited images and whether they provide an actual address for their location.

“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’s rare to recover money that is sent this way.

“The best insurance against being scammed is 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.

“Caution also needs to be exercised when buying goods on classified and auction websites such as Gumtree and eBay, as the ads could be fake.”

Consumer Protection supports the national Scam Awareness Week theme of “let’s talk scams” which encourages honest and open discussions in the community that will help people detect, prevent and avoid scams.

“While we understand that embarrassment may inhibit scam victims from talking about their unfortunate experiences, we encourage them to talk about it with family, friends and the community generally as it may help to inform and educate others, preventing more people from becoming victims,” the Commissioner said.

For further information or to report a scam, go to the WA ScamNet website or call 1300 30 40 54.

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
11 Nov 2021

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