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New online fraud trend: shipping container scams

The ACCC has included a warning about shipping container scams in its list of fake online deals to look out for over the coming holiday sales season.

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“Australians have already lost about $12.9 million to online shopping including classifieds scams so far this year, and the ACCC is urging consumers to watch out for dodgy deals as pre-holiday sales approach,” it said.

Scamwatch has received over 26,000 reports of online shopping scams, more than the total reported through all of 2020. This is consistent with global trends from 2020 as more people shop online during the pandemic.

“This is a very busy time of year, and scammers often try to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers rushing to organise gifts,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. “People are often searching for the best deals online, especially in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, so it’s easy to be caught off guard and fall for a scam.”

Pet scams were the most reported when it came to online shopping scams and were also the most financially damaging. Scamwatch received over 2,800 reports and almost $3.5 million in losses so far, a 78 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

“Vehicle sale scams resulted in big losses at more than $1.9 million, while other common products included caravans, shipping containers and electronics such as laptops, phones, and gaming consoles,” Rickard said.

“Shipping container scams were a new trend this year, fleecing consumers of over $676,000. They were popular on marketplaces and classified sites, but scammers also created fake websites and pretended to have real ABNs. Scamwatch has taken action to get some fake websites removed.”

A Victorian small business was scammed after buying a shipping container for $5,500 from what it thought was a legitimate Goornong website called First Choice Shipping Containers. When the shipping container did not arrive, First Choice Shipping Containers was no longer able to be contacted.

In an online shopping scam, scammers create realistic looking fake online stores selling items at heavily discounted prices, however the items are fake, or never delivered to buyers.

“Be suspicious of too good to be true offers and any sellers that ask you to pay by bank transfer, gift cards or cryptocurrency,” said Rickard. “Research the seller and make sure you know who you are buying from. Search online for the product or company name, plus ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’ to see what other people are saying. If you are buying from a social networking site, check the seller’s history and read reviews from other people who have dealt with them.

More information about consumer guarantees is available on the ACCC’s website.