Australians are reporting a record number of scams, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Targeting Scams report showing a 47% increase from 2015 to 2016.
According to the ACCC report, scammers conned nearly $300 million out of Australian pockets between 2015 and 2016. Investment scams accounted for the largest percentage of this figure, costing $59 million, while dating and romance scams came in second with $42 million lost.
Between the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), 200,000 scams were reported in 2015-2016, with 45% of these reports coming from Australians over the age of 55.
While most these scammers made contact over the phone or through email, social media scams are understood to be growing in popularity. With this in mind, the theme of 2017’s National Consumer Fraud Week (15-19 May) is Spot Social Media Scams.
How to spot a fake trader online or on social media
One of the most common scams on social media is the Fake Trader. Essentially, this involves creating a professional-looking ad on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking site, usually for an online store selling interesting products.
If you click the ad, you’ll be taken through to a similarly slick-looking fake website, where you can purchase the item from the ad. However, once you hand over your money, the item never arrives, and you never hear from the trader again.
Spotting a fake online trader isn’t always easy – some scammers do a very professional job creating their ads and websites – but there are ways to catch them out.
- Pause before buying – Resist your Fear Of Missing Out and don’t instinctively smash that Buy Now button. Take your time to check that the offer and the trader are the real deal before making any online transaction.
- Look up the seller – Do they have an ABN? Do they have reviews or mentions on other websites? Has anyone you know dealt with them before? What’s their refund policy?
- Look up the trader’s contact details – Will you be able to chase up an order if there are problems? Are they active on social media? Do they respond to criticism or complaints?
Many of these tips are also applicable when it comes to investment scams as well. No matter how tempted you are to invest your money with a professional-looking organisation promising a sure return, always check first!
How to protect yourself from fake traders
- Use secure payment methods – These include credit cards and PayPal, which are administered by third parties. If you are a victim of a scam or fraud, contact the credit card provider or PayPal so they can chase your money up.
- Avoid insecure payment methods – Examples include wire transfers, electronic currency, international funds transfer or pre-paid gift cards.
- Trust no-one – Never send money or payment details to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.
- Only pay via a website’s secure payment method – When you navigate to a cart or checkout page, or anywhere else you enter account detaisl or payment information, look for a web address starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol.
Again, many of these tips are also applicable to investment scams.
For other tips to protect yourself from online social media scams, including how to spot fake profiles on dating and matchmaking sites, and who to trust on social media platforms, check the ACCC’s Scamwatch site, or read through The Little Black Book of Scams.