Australians lost nearly $7 million on online shopping scams this year. Here’s what the ACCC says you should look out for.

Beware the online shopping scams. Image: Getty
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning people to keep their eye out for scams when online shopping.
  • Nearly $7 million has been lost to scams so far this year.
  • As major shopping events including Black Friday and Cyber Monday edge closer, the ACCC warned shoppers to watch out for fake ads and websites.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

It’s getting closer to the silly season and as shoppers get stuck in to Christmas shopping, they’re being warned to keep an eye out for online scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed the amount of money lost through online shopping scams has spiked 42% this year. More than 12,000 online shopping scams were reported to the regulator’s sister site, Scamwatch, with nearly $7 million lost.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement that scammers are currently targeting people doing their Christmas shopping, including those gearing up for massive online sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“Scammers create fake websites that look like genuine online stores, offering products at very low prices and victims will either receive a fake item or nothing at all,” she said.

“They also post fake ads on classified websites, often claiming they are travelling and someone else will deliver the goods, but the item never arrives and the victim can no longer contact the seller.”

Websites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree have seen a massive 60% increase in losses to $4.5 million.

A Gumtree spokesperson told Business Insider Australia via email that users should be vigilant when shopping online.

“Whilst over 99% of trading experiences are safe on Gumtree, it is important to remain vigilant and understand the warning signs so you can protect yourself online,” they said.

“We strongly recommend users to take precautions when trading online – be cautious when giving out any information. Never give out your identification or banking details unless you are 100% sure that you’re speaking with the real company/person.”

The spokesperson added that Gumtree has a strict process around ads that are suspicious or concerning.

“Gumtree operates a strict report and take-down process around concerning or suspicious ads that contravene our policy guidelines and we encourage users to report such posts so that we can help to stamp out this activity on the site,” they said. “Any illegal or suspicious activity that occurs offline should be reported to police.

Topping the list of items most people were planning to buy when they got scammed were puppies and other pets. More than 2000 reports were made about pet scams, totalling more than $2 million.

This was followed by shoes – which incurred $81,502 in losses for shoppers – and vehicles at $808, 571. Scammers have also been eyeing shoppers that are looking for computers, phones, clothes and barbecues.

Rickard outlined what shoppers should pay attention to when online shopping.

“Watch out for popular products being sold at prices much lower than on other websites and sellers requesting payment through direct bank transfer or cryptocurrency,” she added. “Take the time to consider who you are dealing with and don’t be pressured by special offers.”

Other tips? Check out independent reviews of online websites, and beware of fake parcel delivery notifications sent by text or email.

“Australia Post will never ask you to click a link to enter your personal details, nor will they ask for credit card details or a fee to deliver your packages,” Rickard said.

And if you do suffer the misfortune of being scammed, let your bank know as soon as possible.