More than half the Australian population now shop online, so it comes as no surprise that fraudsters have ramped up their online operations. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently reported a 65 per cent rise in online shopping scams with more than 8000 victims last year reporting losses of over $4 million last year.
ACCC deputy chairwoman, Delia Rickard, believes that there are many more Australians shopping online who were scammed last year, but were too embarrassed to report the crime. Others may not have felt that the amount they lost warranted reporting the crime to the police.
In an interview with TheAge newspaper, Sergeant Peter Endler of the Victorian Fraud Squad admitted that the police only deal with the most serious cases. Mr Endler also mentioned that police could only prosecute a fraud which had taken place within their state and that an internet crime is deemed to have taken place where the fraudster is located, which causes all kinds of problems tracking down and charging international fraudsters.
However, the majority of Australians caught up in shopping scams last year, who used their credit card for the transaction, would have been able to get their money back.
The statistics don’t lie. Australians were scammed a total of $93 million last year through various “schemes”. The top three types of online fraud were Advanced Fee Fraud, dating and romance scams and online auction and shopping scams which netted fraudsters $57 million.
The stand out from this list is the Advanced Fee Fraud, which involves a person being called or emailed about a large amount of money they are supposably entitled to. The scammer claims that they are holding this money for the victim but a small fee needs to be paid to cover the taxes of the transfer or simply a set amount as agent commission to release the sum of money. The person transfers the money via the method specified by the scammer, which is usually untraceable, then never hears from the scammer again nor receives any money.
The majority of us laugh off these types of scams when we receive them in our inboxes, but the statistics suggest that someone we know, a friend or family member, was defrauded by one of these types of scams in the past five years.
Education is the only way we can prevent these types of scams from happening and it is up to all of us, not the government, to inform our friends of old and new scams which they could fall foul.
Do you share information of the latest scams with your friends? Do you report scams to the ACCC run website, SCAMwatch?