The scams that are robbing Australians of thousands of dollars

Scammers have fleeced Australians out of millions of dollars in 2018, and will ramp up their efforts over the holiday season.

Scammers have fleeced Australians out of millions of dollars in 2018, and will ramp up their efforts over the holiday season. Photo: Getty

From parcel delivery cons to online shopping swindles, Australians are being warned to watch out for increasingly sophisticated and costly scams this festive season.

Scammers have already fleeced Australians out of millions of dollars this year and will have online shoppers, holiday makers and travellers in their sights as they ramp up their unscrupulous activities over the holiday period, the consumer watchdog warned this week.

“Scammers will take advantage of special days or major events like Christmas to fleece people of their money or personal information,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said.

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, there are three common cons to beware of over the holiday period:

  • Parcel delivery scams: Scammers may ask you to print a label, do a survey, claim a prize, or view the status of your delivery by clicking on a link or downloading an attachment via email. Some scammers may even call or text with claims about an unsuccessful delivery. These scams are aimed at getting people to download malware onto their computer, or give up their personal information. People have lost about $31,000 to these scams in 2018.
  • Online shopping scams: Scammers will set up fake online stores or post goods for sale in buy‑swap-sell groups or online classified sites to trick people into buying items that don’t exist. This scam has cost Australians nearly $3 million in 2018, with more than 8700 reports.
  • Travel scams: Scammers trick people into believing they’ve won a holiday or scored a really good deal on a travel package, like a cruise. Unfortunately the prize or the cheap accommodation are phoney. In 2018, nearly $135,000 has been lost to this scam.

Christmas tax scams on the rise

Phone calls from scammers pretending to be the Australian Taxation Office escalate at tax time, but scammers are increasingly using the racket to cash in over Christmas, the ACCC warned.

Scamwatch saw a “massive influx of reports and money lost to tax scams” in 2018, with 7500 reports of tax scams and $400,000 reported lost in November alone.

“This isn’t a usual holiday season scam, however a lot of people are getting calls from scammers pretending to be from the tax office or the police and threatening them with arrest over unpaid tax debts,” Ms Rickard said.

“This is a scam. If you ever get a call or email containing threats like this, hang up the phone or delete the email.”

The key to avoiding a con

The key to avoiding a con these holidays is a healthy dose of scepticism, and research, the ACCC said.

“Be sceptical about an online store you haven’t used before. Do some research to see if they’re legitimate and don’t be fooled by big discounts,” Ms Rickard said.

Fake parcel delivery tracking notices can also contain nasty surprises.

“We’re all expecting parcels this time of year, but be careful about online links and never download attachments,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you’re wondering if a delivery notice is legitimate, check the tracking number at Australia Post or other delivery company website, or call them directly using a number you find from an online search or the phone book.”

Bargain hunters beware

Bargain hunters should be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, and only use trustworthy websites and services.

“We love snagging a great deal online for a loved one’s Christmas present and the idea of a bargain holiday is perfect for many after a long year. But don’t fall for it,” Ms Rickard said.

When booking holidays, be sure to double check the deal is real, and communicate through official channels to avoid getting stung.

“With travel deals, call the accommodation provider directly, for example the cruise line or hotel, to check if the deal is legitimate,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you see a seemingly great deal on an accommodation rental website like Airbnb, make sure you only communicate and pay through the official site to avoid getting stung by a fake listing.”

For further information about holiday season scams visit Scamwatch online follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter, and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts to get up-to-date warnings.

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