AUSTRALIANS are losing more than $93 million a year in online scams, many aimed at shoppers and mobile phone users.
A record 83,803 reports and inquiries from consumers and small businesses were lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last year. Annual financial loss claims climbed 9 per cent to $93.4 million.Mobile phones, online shopping and social network users are all vulnerable to crooks who siphon money or steal identities, the Targeting Scams report reveals.
National Consumer Fraud Week, which starts today, is promoting safe online shopping after a 65 per cent surge in internet auction and sales complaints such as bogus ads on classifieds sites.Phony buyers are also swindling refunds from online sellers by pretending to "overpay" for products.
ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said the true cost of the scams was unknown as people were often too embarrassed to come forward. Many scams were run by overseas-based organised crime networks."The best defence is recognising telltale signs," she said.
The ACCC report says the biggest individual loss was $3.5 million taken in an inheritance con.Two Britons behind another inheritance scam were sentenced after taking $800,000 from an Australian retiree who was found when she listed her home for sale.But most scammers take $100 to $500 at a time.Advanced fee or Nigerian frauds, in which victims are asked to pay fees for a share of money or goods, were most commonly reported. Computer hacking and lottery scams came next.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Almost everyone will be approached by a scammer at some stage. Some scams are very easy to spot while other scams may appear to be genuine offers or bargains. Scams can even take place without you doing anything at all.
Most scams need you to do something before they can work. You may send money to someone based on a promise that turns out to be false. You may give your personal details to people who turn out to be scammers.Some scams rely on you agreeing to deals without getting advice first or buying a product without checking it out properly.
The simple tips below will help you protect yourself and your family from scams. Scams can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress. By following these simple tips, you can protect yourself against scams.
• If it looks too good to be true - it probably is
• ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment
• Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money are the scammers
• Do not agree to offers or deals straight away: tell the person that you are not interested or that you want to get some independent advice before making a decision
• You can contact your local office of fair trading, ASIC or the ACCC for assistance
• NEVER send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust
• Check your bank account and credit card statements when you get them. If you see a transaction you cannot explain, report it to your credit union or bank
• Keep your credit and ATM cards safe. Do not share your personal identity number with anyone. Do not keep any written copy of your PIN with the card