Beware these holiday season scams

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but it’s also the season to be wary.

Scamwatch is warning people to be careful about being caught out by holiday season scams this summer.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard said this time of year was particularly fruitful for scammers.

“Scammers will take advantage of special days or major events like Christmas to fleece people of their money or personal information,” Ms Rickard said.

Here are three common holiday season scams people should look out for:

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 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 good deal on a travel package, like a cruise. Unfortunately, both the prize and the cheap travel package are phony. In 2018, nearly $135,000 was lost to this scam.

Parcel delivery scams
Scammers may ask you to print off a label, do a survey, claim a prize, or view the status of your delivery by clicking on a link or downloading an attachment. 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.

“Scamwatch has also seen a massive influx of reports and money lost to tax scams. In November, we received 7500 reports of these scams and $400,000 was reported lost,” Ms Rickard said.

“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.

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

Ms Rickard added that the key to avoiding a scammer’s con these holidays is a healthy dose of scepticism and research.

“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.

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

“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,” Ms Rickard said.

“We’re all expecting parcels this time of year but be careful about online links and never download attachments. If you’re wondering if a delivery notice is legitimate, check the tracking number at the Australia Post or other delivery company website, or call them directly using a number you find from an online search or the phone book.

“While with friends and family over the holidays, consider taking the opportunity to spread the warnings about these scams, particularly to those loved ones who may be vulnerable.” Ms Rickard said.

Further information about holiday season scams is available at scamwatch.gov.au.

Have you ever been scammed at Christmas? What happened?

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Written by Ben

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