Buyer beware: Scammer Claus is coming to town
11 December 2023
Westpac is urging Aussies to be extra careful about scams this festive season.
Released today, the bank’s latest scam data has found buying and selling scams are up 47 per cent from last year*. These scams target customers with competitive prices through fake websites, social media ads or online marketplaces and tend to peak at this time of year.
Westpac Head of Fraud Ben Young says more than half of all reported buying & selling scams in 2022 occurred in November and December.
“Scammers often target customers at this time of year when people are spending more and can sometimes be a bit more distracted,” Mr Young said.
“To put this into perspective, Westpac facilitated more than 31 million point-of-sale transactions during the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales leading to a 5 per cent increase in fraud-related calls^.
“Our research shows more Aussies are also seeking out bargains to help fund their festive season. While this is a great way to make the Christmas budget stretch further, it unfortunately also means we might be more susceptible to fake offers promising sought-after items at competitive prices.
“Scammers also prey on ‘parcel anxiety’ where many of us anxiously await an online delivery and trick us into clicking on links through fake tracking updates.”
According to Westpac’s research, 31 per cent of Australians have encountered a scam through fake websites, online retailers, or marketplaces†.
While buying and selling scams are more prevalent at this time of year, Mr Young warns Aussies should also remain alert to fake investment offers, altered invoices and remote access software – which still rank among the top scam types.
“Investment scams remain one of the biggest challenges, accounting for more than half of all losses. These scams can be appealing because they promise lucrative returns and scammers invest a lot of time grooming victims, making them very difficult to spot,” Mr Young said.
“Other common scam tactics include issuing fake invoices with altered payment details and tricking you into downloading software or installing apps on your devices that allow the scammer to access personal information like emails, passwords or even your banking details.
“Always call a business or supplier to independently confirm if payment details are accurate before sending any money, never click on links sent via SMS or email and be cautious about anyone who instructs you to urgently download an app or install a program onto your mobile or computer.”
Westpac has rolled out a range of new scam prevention initiatives saving customers more than $235 million in scam-related losses over the last year. The bank is now detecting over 60 per cent of all cases.
“When shopping online, Westpac customers should use their Digital Card available in the app to make purchases. This has a security code which changes every day for added security and is reducing fraud rates by 80 per cent,” Mr Young added.
“If a business requests unusual payment methods, such as through cryptocurrency or as a direct bank transfer, you should take extra care and check if the business is legitimate before sending them any money.”
Common scams tactics to watch out for:
- Fake websites. Scammers entice victims with competitive prices through fake sites. Be wary when purchasing from brands or websites you’ve either never heard of or bought anything from before, particularly if advertised on social media.
- Fake parcel delivery messages. Scammers prey on ‘parcel anxiety’ – where you anxiously await updates on something you’ve ordered online – and issue fake delivery updates through SMS or via email asking you to click on links. Never click on links and use provided tracking numbers to independently review a delivery status.
- Fake investments. Offers that appear too good to be true, usually are. Always conduct thorough research, discuss an opportunity with friends or family and consult with an expert before making any investment decisions.
* Westpac customer data of total reported scam cases, 2022 vs 2023.
^ Point-of-sale transactions from 24-27 November 2023 & uplift in fraud calls logged in w/c 27 Nov compared to the week prior.
† Research was commissioned by Westpac and conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. Lonergan surveyed 2,000 Australians (18+) between 29 July and 9 August 2023 via an online survey amongst a permission-based panel. After interviewed, data was weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from the ABS.